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Full text of "The cruise of the "Cachalot" round the world after sperm whales. by Frank T. Bullen ; with illustrations"

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in 2007 with funding from 

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i 



THE CEUISE OF THE "CACHALOT" 



The Rev. Dp. HORTON. in his Sermon on behalf of the British 
and Foreign Bible Society, referred to Mr. BuUen's "Cruise of the •Cachalot'" 
in the following terms : — 

" It is a very remarkable book in every %cay : it seems to me worthy 
to rank with some of the ivritings of Defoe. It has absolutely taken 
the shine out of some of the romantic literature of such writers as even 
Stevenson and Rudyard Kipling. By the strange law that truth is 
more wonderful than fiction, this book is more wonderful than the 
wildest dreams of the creator of imagination." 

Eleventh Impressiox. 
With 8 Illustrations and a Chart. Large post 8vo, 8s. 6cZ. 

THE CRUISE OF THE "CACHALOT" ROUND THE 

WORLD AFTER SPERM WHALES. By Frank T. Bullf.n, First 
i^Iate. The Volume includes a Letter to the Author from lludyard 
Kipling. 

J'IMES. — "Mr. Bullen has a splendid subject, and be handles it with the pen of a 
mnster. . . . 'The Cruise of the "Cachalot" ' is a book which cannot but fascinate all lovers 
oi the sea, and all who can appreciate a masterly presentation of its wonder and its mystery, 
its terrors and its trials, its humours and its tragedies." 

BY THE SAME AUTHOR. 

DEEP-SEA PLUNDERINGS. Third Impression. With 

8 Full-page Hlustrations by Arthur Twidle. Crown 8vo, 6s. 
SPECTATOR — "There is something in the book to please almost every taste, and very 
little to call for serious criticism. . . . The book deserves to be, and will be, read by all who 
look to literature to provide them with refreshment and recreation." 

THE LOG OF A SEA WAIF. Being Recollections of 

the First Four Years of My Sea Life. Fourth Impression. "With 8 

Full-page Illustrations specially drawn by Arthur Twidle. Large post 

8vo, 8s. 6d. 

WORLD.—" In 'The Log of a Sea Waif Mr. Bullen has surpassed all his previous efforts. 
We have read many stories of sea-life, but do not remember to have been so fascinated and 
enthralled by any of them as by this masterly presentation of the humours, hardships, and 
minor tragedies of life in the forecastle." 

THE MEN OF THE MERCHANT SERVICE. Being the 

Polity of the Mercantile Marine for 'Longshore Readers. Second Im- 
pression. Large post 8vo, 7s. 6d. 

ACADEMi'.—" We could not in a short space convey any idea of the variety of special 
information— all bo human and related— that Mr. Bullen gives. . . . We only prick a book 
that is bulged with seacraft, and resembles the perfect sailor whose every hair is a ropeyaru 
and every drop of blood Stockholm tar." 

THE WAY THEY HAVE IN THE NAVY. Being a 

Day-to-Day Record of a Cruise in H.M. Hattleship "Mars"' during the 
Naval MaucEUvres of 1899. . Crown Svo, paper covers. Is. ; cloth. Is. Qd. 
SPECTATOR.— "yfe recommend it most heartily and without .any misgiving." 



London: SMITH, ELDER & CO., 15, Waterloo Place, S.W. 




THE "CACHALOT. 



(See page 3.) 



THE CRUISE OE THE 
" CACHALOT " 

ROUND THE WORLD AETER SPERM WHALES 



BT 

FRANK T. BULLEN, F.R.G.S. 



FIRST MATE 



WITH ILLUSTRATIONS 



ELEVENTH IMPRESSION (SECOND EDITION) 





LONDON 


"^i^ 
^ 


SMITH, 


ELDER & CO., 15, WATERLOO 
1903 

(All rights reterved) 


PLACE 



TO 

Miss EMILY HENSLB7 

IN 

GRATEFUL REMEMBRANCE OF 

THIRTY YEARS' CONSTANT FRIENDSHIP AND PRACTICAL HBLP 

THIS WORK 

IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED 

BY ttER HUMBLE PUPIL. 



LETTER received hy the Author from Mr. RUDYABD 
KIPLINGy as the book was passing through the 
Press, 

Dear Mr. Bullen, — 

It is immense — there is no other word. 
I've never read anything that equals it in its deep- 
sea wonder and mystery; nor do I think that any 
book before has so completely covered the whole 
business of whale-fishing, and at the same time 
given such real and new sea pictures. You have 
thrown away material enough to make five 
books, and I congratulate you most heartily. It's a 
new world that you've opened the door to. 

Very sincerely, 

KUDYARD KIPLING. 

ROTTINGDEAN, Nov, 22, 1898. 



PREFACE. 



In the following pages an attempt has been made — it is 
believed for the first time — to give an aeoount of the 
cruise of a South Sea whaler from the seaman's stand- 
point. Two very useful books * have been published — 
both of them over half a century ago — on the same sub- 
ject ; but, being written by the surgeons of whale-ships 
for scientific purposes, neither of them was interesting 
to the general reader. They have both been long out 
of print ; but their value to the student of natural history 
has been, and still is, very great, Dr. Beale's book, in 
particular, being still the authority on the sperm whale. 
This book does not pretend to compete with either 
of the above valuable works. Its aim is to present to 
the general reader a simple account of the methods 
employed, and the dangers met with, in a calling about 
which the great mass of the public knows absolutely 
nothing. Pending the advent of some great writer 
who shall see the wonderful possibilities for litera- 
ture contained in the world-wide wanderings of the 
South Sea whale-fishers, the author has endeavoured 

• " Narrative of a Whaling Voyage round the Globe," by F. Debell 
Bennett, F.R.C.S. (2 vols.). Bentley, London (1840). "The Sperm 
Whale Fishery," by Thomas Beale, M.R.C.S. London (1835). 



riii PREFACE. 

to summarize his experiences so that they may be read 
without weariness, and, it is hoped, with profit. 

The manifold shortcomings of the work will not, it is 
trusted, be laid to the account of the subject, than which 
none more interesting could well be imagined, but to the 
limitations of the writer, whose long experience of sea 
life has done little to foster the literary faculty. 

One claim may be made with perfect confidence — 
that if the manner be not all that could be wished, 
the matter is entirely trustworthy, being compiled from 
actual observation and experience, and in no case at 
second-hand. An endeavour has also been made to 
exclude such matter as is easily obtainable elsewhere 
—matters of common knowledge and " padding " of 
any sort — the object not being simply the making of 
a book, but the record of little-known facts.. 

Great care has been taken to use no names either of 
ships or persons, which could, by being identified, give 
annoyance or pain to any one, as in many cases strong 
language has been necessary for the expression of 
opinions. 

Finally, the author hopes that, although in no sense 
exclusively a book for boys, the coming generation 
may find this volume readable and interesting; and 
with that desire he offers it confidently, though in all 
humility, to that great impartial jury, the public. 

F. T. B. 

DuLWiCH, July, 1897. 



CONTENTS, 



CHAPTER I. 

OUTWARD BOUND. 

Adrift in New Bedford — I get a ship — A motley crowd — '* Built 
by the railo, and cut off as you want 'em " — Mistah Jones — 
Qreenies — Off to sea 



CHAPTER II. 

PREPARING FOR ACTION. 



Primitive steering-gear — Strange drill — Misery below — Short 
commons — Goliath rigs the " crow's-nest " — Useful informa- 
tion — Preparing for war — Strange weapons — A boat-load . 7 

CHAPTER III. 

nSHINQ BEGINS. 

The cleanliness of a whale-ship — No skulking — Porpoise-fishihg 
— Cannibals — Cooking operations — Boat-drill — A good look- 
out — "Black-fishing" — Roguery in all trades — Plenty of 
fresh beef — The nursery of American whalemen . . 15 

CHAPTER IV. 

BAD WEATHER. 

Nautical routine — The first gale — Comfort versus speed — A grant' 
sea-boat — The Sargasso Sea — Natural history pursuits — 
Jolphin — Unconventional fishing — Rumours of a visit to the 
Cape Verdes — Babel below — No allowance, but not " fiill 
and plenty " — Queer washing — Method of sharing rations — 
The " slop-shop " opened — Our prospects ... 25 



X CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER V. 

ACTUAL WARFARE. OUR FIRST WHALE. 

Premonitions— Discussion on whaling from unknown premisses — 
I wake in a fright — Sperm whales at last — The war begins 
— Warning — ^We get fast — And get loose — In trouble — An 
uncomfortable situation — No pity — Only one whale — Rigging 
the " cutting-stage " — Securing the v*^hale alongside . , 34 

CHAPTER VI. 

" DIRTY WORK FOR CLEAN MONEY." 

Goliath in trouble — Commence " cutting in " — A heavy head — 
A tank of spermaceti — Decks running with oil — A " patent " 
mincing-machine — Extensive cooking — Dangerous work — 
Three tuns of oU — A horrible mess — A thin-skinned monster 
— A fine mouth of teeth ...... 45 

CHAPTER VII. 

GETTING SOUTHWARD. 

Captain Slocum's amenities — Expensive beer — St. Paul's Rocks — 
" Bonito " — " Showery " weather — Waterspouts — Calms — 
A friendly finback — A disquisition on whales by ]\I\stah 
Jones — Flying-fishing ....... 55 

CHAPTER VIII. 

abner's whale. 

Abner in luck — A big " fish " at last — A feat of endurance — 
A fighting whale — The sperm whale's food — Ambergris 
— A good reception — Hard labour — Abner's reward — 
" Scrimshaw "........ 68 

CHAPTER IX. • 

OUR FIRST CALLING-PLACE. 

A forced march — ^Tristan d'Acunha — Visitors — Fresh provisions 
— A warm welcome — Gohath's turn — A feathered host — 
Good gear — A rough time — Creeping north — Uncertainty — 
" Rule of thumb " navip^ation — The Mozambique Channel . 85 



CONTENTS, II 

CHAPTER X. 

▲ VISIT TO SOMK STttAXOB PLACES 

Tropical thunderstorms — A "record" day's fishing— Cetacean 
frivolities — Mistah Jones moralizes — A snug harbour- 
Wooding and watering — Catching a turtle — Catching a 
"Tartar" — A violent death — A crooked jaw— Aldabra 
Island — Primeval inhabitants — A strange steed — "Pirate" 
birds — Good eggs — Green cocoa-nuts — More turtle — A 
school of " kogia " 103 

CHAPTER XI. 

ROUND THE COCOS AMD SEYCHELLES. 

We encounter a " cyclone " — A tremendous gust — A foundering 
ship — To anchor for repairs— The Cocos— Repairing damages 
— Around the Seychelles — A " milk " sea — A derelict prahu 
— A ghastly freight — A stagnant sea . . . .128 

CHAPTER XII. 

WHICH TREATS OF THE KBAKEN. 

" Eyes and no eyes " at sea — Of big mollusca — The origin of sea- 
serpent stories — Rediscovery of the " Kraken " — A conflict 
of monsters — "The insatiable nightmares of the sea" — 
Spermaceti running to waste — The East Indian maze . \3b 

CHAPTER XIII. 

OFF TO THE JAPAN GROUNDS. 

A whale oflf Hong Kong — The skipper and his "bomb-gun"— 
Injury to the captain — Unwelcome visitors — The heathen 
Chinee — We get safe off — " Death of Portagee Jim " — The 
Funeral — The Coast of Japan — Port Lloyd — Meeting of 
whale-ships U9 

CHAPTER XIV. 

LIBERTY DAY — AND AFTER. 

Liberty day — I foregather with a " beach-comber " — A big fight 
—Goliath on the war-path — A court-martial — Wholesale 



xii CONTENTS. 



PAa> 



flogging — A miserable crowd — Quite a fleet of whale-ahips 
— I " raise " a sperm whale — Severe competition — An 
unfortunate stroke — The skipper distinguishes himself . 161 



CHAPTER XV. 

WTHICH COMES UNCOMFORTABLY NEAR BEING THE LAST. 

I come to grief — ^Emulating Jonah — Sharing a flurry — A long 
spell of sick-leave — The whale's " sixth sense " — Off to the 
Kuriles — Prepare for " bowhead "-fishing — The Sea of 
Okhotsk — Abundant salmon — The " daintiness " of seamen 176 

CHAPTER XVI. 

" BOWHEAD " FISHING. 

Difference between whales — Popular ideas exploded — The gentle 
mysticetus — Very tame work — Fond of tongue — Goliath 
confides in me — An awful affair — Captain Slocum's death — 
" Not Amurath an Amurath succeeds " — I am promoted . 191 

CHAPTER XVII. 

VISIT TO HONOLULU. 

Towards Honolulu — Missionaries and their critics — The happy 

Kanaka — Honolulu — A pleasant holiday . . 206 

CHAPTER XVIII. 

ON THE " LINE " GROUNDS. 

I get my opportunity — A new harpooner — Feats under the 
skipper's eye — Two whales on one line — Compliments — 
Heavy towage — A grand haul . , . . ,213 

CHAPTER XIX. 

EDGING SOUTHWARD. 

Monotony — A school of blackfish — A boat ripped in half — A 
multitude of sharks — A curious backbone — Christmas Day — 
A novel Christmas dinner — A find of ambergris . 224 



CONTENTS, Bill 

CHAPTER XX. 

" HUMPBACKINO " AT VAU VAU. 

"Gamming" again — A Whitechapel rover — Arrive at Vau Vau 
— Valuable friends — A Sunday ashore — '* Hollingside " — 
The natives at church — Full-dress — Very "mishnally" — 
Idyllic cruising — Wonderful mother-love — A mighty feast . 241 

CHAPTER XXL 

PROGRESS OP TUE " HUMPBACK " SEASON. 

A frnitless chase — Placid times — A stirring adventure — A vast 
(•ave — Unforeseen company — A night of terror — We provide 
a feast for the sharks — The death of Abner — An impiessive 
ceremony — An invitation to dinner — Kanaka cookery . 268 

CHAPTER XXIL 

FAREWELL TO VAU VAU. 

Ignorance of the habits of whales — A terrific encounter — Va 
Victis ! — Rewarding our " flems " — We leave Vau Vau — The 
Outward bounder — Sailors' " homes " — A night of horror- 
Sudden death— Futuna 274 

CHAPTER XXHI. 

AT rUTUNA, EECRUITINO. 

A fleet of nondescripts — '* Tui Tongoa," otherwise Sam — Eager 
recruits — Devout Catholics — A visit to Sunday Island — A 
Crusoe family — Their eviction — Maori cabbage — Fine fishing 
—Away for New Zealand— Sight the "Three Kings"— 
The Bay of Islands 291 

CHAPTER XXIV. 

THE BAT or ISLANDS AND NEW ZEALAND COAST. 

Sleepy hollow — Wood and water — Liberty day — A plea for the 
sailors' recreation — Our picnic — A whiff of "May" — A 
delightful excursion — To the southward again — Wintry 
weather — Enter Foveaux Straits ..... 310 



xiv CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER XXV. 

ON THE SOLAXDEK GROUNDS. 

Firstfruits of the Solander — An easy catch — Delights of the 
Solander— Port William— The old Chance—'' Paddy Gilroy " 
— Barbarians from the East End — Barracouta - fishing 
— Wind-bound — An enormous school of cachalots — Mis- 
fortune — A bursting whale — Back on the Solander again — 
Cutting in at Port William — Studying anatomy — Badly- 
battered Yankees — Paddy in luck again .... 323 

CHAPTER XXVI. 

faddy's latest exploit. 

We try Preservation Inlet — An astounding feat of Paddy 

Giiroy's 348 

CHAPTER XXVII. 

POET PEGASUS. 

Port Pegasus — Among old acquaintances — " Mutton birds " — 
Skilled auxiliaries — A gratifying catch — Leave port again 
— Back to the Solander — A grim escape — Our last whales 
— Into Port William again — Paddy' s assistance — We part 
with our Kanakas — Sam's plans of conquest . . . 357 

CHAPTER XXVIII. 

TO THE BLUFF, AND H0:ME. 

And last — In high-toned company — Another picnic — Depart from 
the Bluff — Hey for the Horn! — Among the icebergs — 
" Scudding " — Favouring trades — A narrow escape from 
collision — Home at last ...... 370 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS. 



-•o*- 



TO FACi PAoa 

The " Cachalot "..... Frontispiece 

LjLNCLNO A Whale ........ 39 

The Whale stauted off to Windward with u.s at a 

Tkemendous Rate 74 

Futixo A Bomb-lance 119 

A Very Large Sperm Wila;j: was locked in Deadly 

CONELICT with A SqUID . . . . . .143 

On his Back, with his Jaw in the First Biting Position 235 

A Ten-mile Steady Pull to Windward .... 252 

The Vast Flukes of tile Whale . . . shore off the Bow 

of the Attacking Boat ...... 269 



Map — The Mean Track of the "Cachalot" on a WuALiN'i 

CKLliiE ROUND THE WORLD ....,, 1 



TNTRODUCTION. 



Without attempting the ambitious task of presenting a 
comprehensive sketch of the origin, rise, and fall of whale- 
fishing as a whole, it seems necessary to give a brief out- 
line of that portion of the subject bearing upon the theme 
of the present book before plunging into the first chapter. 

This preliminary is the more needed for the reason 
alluded to in the Preface — the want of knowledge of the 
subject that is apparent everywhere. The Greenland 
whale fishery has been so popularized that most people 
know something about it ; the sperm whale fishery still 
awaits its Scoresby and a like train of imitators and 
borrowers. 

Cachalots, or sperm whales, must have been captured 
on the coasts of Europe in a desultory way from a very 
early date, by the incidental allusions to the prime pro- 
ducts spermaceti and ambergris which are found in so 
many ancient writers. Shakespeare's reference — ** The 
sovereign'st thing on earth was parmaceti for an inward 
bruise '* — will be familiar to most people, as well as Mil- 
ton's mention of the delicacies at Satan's feast — " Gris- 
amber steamed " — not to carry quotation any further. 

But in the year 1690 the brave and hardy fishermen 
of the north-east coasts of North America established 



X viii INTR OD UCTION. 

that systematic pursuit of the cachalot which has 
thriven so wonderfully ever since, although it must 
be confessed that the last few years have witnessed a 
serious decline in this great branch of trade. 

For many years the American colonists completely 
engrossed this branch of the whale fishery, contentedly 
leaving to Great Britain and the continental nations the 
monopoly of the northern or Arctic fisheries, while they 
cruised the stormy, if milder, seas around their own shores. 

For the resultant products, their best customer was 
the mother country, and a lucrative commerce steadily 
grew up between the two countries. But when the 
march of events brought the unfortunate and wholly 
unnecessary War of Independence, this flourishing 
trade was the first to suJBfer, and many of the daring 
fishermen became our fiercest foes on board their own 
men-of-war. 

The total stoppage of the importation of sperm 
oil and spermaceti was naturally severely felt in 
England, for time had not permitted the invention of 
substitutes. In consequence of this, ten ships were 
equipped and sent out to the sperm whale fishery from 
England in 1775, most of them owned by one London 
firm, the Messrs. Enderby. The next year, in order to 
encourage the infant enterprise, a Government bounty, 
graduated from £500 to £1000 per ship, was granted. 
Under this fostering care the number of ships engaged 
in the sperm whale fishery progressively increased until 
1791, when it attained its maximum. 

This method of whaling being quite new to our 
whaleman, it was necessary, at great cost, to hire 



INTRODUCTION, 

American officers and harpooners to instruct tlum in 
the ways of dealing with these highly active and 
dangerous cetacea. Naturally, it was by-and-by foand 
possible to dispense with the services of these auxiliaries ; 
but it must be confessed that the business never seems 
to have found such favour, or to have been prosecuted 
with such smartness, among our whalemen as it has 
by the Americans. 

Something of an exotic the trade always was among 
us, although it did attain considerable proportions at 
one time. At first the fishing was confined to the 
Atlantic Ocean ; nor for many years was it necessary to 
go farther afield, as abundance of whales could easily 
be found. 

As, however, the number of ships engaged increased, 
it was inevitable that the known grounds should become 
exhausted, and in 1788 Messrs. Enderby's ship, the 
Emilia, first ventured round Cape Horn, as the pioneer 
of a greater trade than ever. The way once pointed out, 
other ships were not slow to follow, until, in 1819, the 
British whale-ship Syren opened up the till then unex- 
plored tract of ocean in the western part of the North 
Pacific, afterwards familiarly known as the ** Coast of 
Japan." From these teeming waters alone, for many 
years an average annual catch of 40,000 barrels of oil 
was taken, which, at the average price of ^8 per barrel, 
will give some idea of the value of the trade generally. 

The Australian colonists, early in their career, found 
the sperm whale fishery easy of access from all their 
coasts, and especially lucrative. At one time they bade 
fair to establish a whale fishery that should rival the 



XX INTRODUCTION. 

splendid trade of the Americans ; but, like the mother 
country, they permitted the fishery to decline, so that 
even bounties could not keep it alive. 

Meanwhile, the Americans added to their fleet 
continually, prospering amazingly. But suddenly the 
advent of the civil war let loose among those peaceable 
cruisers the devastating Alabama, whose course was 
marked in some parts of the world by the fires of 
blazing whale-ships. A great part of the Geneva award 
was on this account, although it must be acknowledged 
that many pseudo-owners were enriched who never 
owned aught but brazen impudence and influential 
friends to push their fictitious claims. The real 
sufferers, seamen especially, in most cases never 
received any redress whatever. 

From this crushing blow the American sperm whale 
fishery has never fully recovered. When the writer 
was in the trade, some twenty-two years ago, it was 
credited with a fleet of between three and four hundred 
sail ; now it may be doubted whether the numbers reach 
an eighth of that amount. A rigid conservatism of 
method hinders any revival of the industry, which is 
practically conducted to-day as it was fifty, or even 
a hundred years ago ; and it is probable that another 
decade will witness the final extinction of what was 
once one of the most important maritime industries in 
the world. 



* I 




'of Greenwich 60' 



Walktrer-Boittall ic. 



Colnett, Huggins, and Beale. 
SrsoM Whalb, OB Cachalot {Physeter Macroeephaltu), 



THE CKUISE OF THE "CACHALOT." 



CHAPTER L 



OUTWARD BOUND. 

At the age of eighteen, after a sea-experience of six 
years from the time when I dodged about London 
streets, a ragged Arab, with wits sharpened by the 
constant fight for food, I found myself roaming the 
streets of New Bedford, Massachusetts. How I came 
to be there, of all places in the world, does not concern 
this story at all, so I am not going to trouble my readers 
with it; enough to say that I was there, and mighty 
anxious to get away. Sailor Jack is always hankering 
for shore when he is at sea, but when he is ** outward 
bound " — that is, when his money is all gone — he is 
like a cat in the rain there. 

So as my money was all gone, I was hungry for a 
ship ; and when a long, keen-looking man with a goat- 
like beard, and mouth stained with dry tobacco-juice. 



2 TEE CRUISE OF TEE ^'CACEALOT^ 

hailed me one afternoon at the street corner, I answered 
very promptly, scenting a berth. " Lookin* fer a ship, 
stranger ? " said he. " Yes ; do you want a hand ? " 
said I, anxiously. He made a funny little sound some- 
thing like a pony's whinny, then answered, "Wall, I 
should surmise that I want between fifty and sixty 
hands, ef yew kin lay me onto 'em ; but, kem along, 
every dreep's a drop, an' yew seem likely enough." 
"With that he turned and led the way until we reached 
a building, around which were gathered one of the 
most nondescript crowds I had ever seen. There cer- 
tainly did not appear to be a sailor among them. Not 
so much by their rig, though that is not a great deal 
to go by, but by their actions and speech. One thing 
they all had in common, tobacco chewing ; but as nearly 
every male I met with in America did that, it was not 
much to be noticed. I had hardly done reckoning them 
up when two or three bustling men came out and 
shepherded us all energetically into a long, low room, 
where some form of agreement was read out to us. 
Sailors are naturally and usually careless about the 
nature of the ** articles " they sign, their chief anxiety 
being to get to sea, and under somebody's charge. But 
had I been ever so anxious to know what I was going 
to sign this time, I could not, for the language might 
as well have been Chinese for all I understood of it. 
However, I signed and passed on, engaged to go I knew 
not where, in some ship I did not know even the name 
of, in which I was to receive I did not know how much, 
©r how little, for my labour, nor how long I was going 
to be away. " What a young fool ! " I hear somebody 
say. I quite agree, but there were a good many more 
in that ship, as in most ships that I have ever sailed in. 



OUTWARD BOUND, 3 

From the time we signed the articles, we were never 
left to ourselves. Truculent-looking men accompanied 
us to our several boarding-houses, paid our debts for 
us, finally bringing us by boat to a ship lying out in 
the bay. As we passed under her stern, I read the 
name Cachalot^ of New Bedford ; but as soon as we 
ranged alongside, I realized that I was booked for the 
sailor's horror — a cruise in a whaler. Badly as I 
wanted to get to sea, I had not bargained for this, and 
would have run some risks to get ashore again ; but they 
took no chances, so we were all soon aboard. Before 
going forward, I took a comprehensive glance around, 
and saw that I was on board of a vessel belonging to 
a type which has almost disappeared ofif the face of the 
waters. A more perfect contrast to the trim-built 
English clipper-ships that I had been accustomed to 
I could hardly imagine. She was one of a class cha- 
racterized by sailors as " built by the mile, and cut oil 
in lengths as you want *em," bow and stern almost alike, 
masts standing straight as broomsticks, and bowsprit 
soaring upwards at an angle of about forty-five degrees. 
She was as old-fashioned in her rig as in her hull ; but 
I must not go into the technical diflerences between 
rigs, for fear of making myself tedious. Bight in the 
centre of the deck, occupying a space of about ten feet 
by eight, was a square erection of brickwork, upon 
which my wondering gaze rested longest, for I had not 
the slightest idea what it could be. But I was rudely 
roused from my meditations by the harsh voice of one 
of the officers, who shouted, ** Naow then, git below 
an' stow yer dunnage, 'n look lively up agin." I took 
the broad hint, and shouldering my traps, hurried for- 
lipard to the fo'lk'sle, which was below deck. Tumbling 



4 TEE CRUISE OF TEE "CACEALOTr 

down the steep ladder, I entered the gloomy den which 
was to be for so long my home, finding it fairly packed 
with my shipmates. A motley crowd they were. I 
had been used in English ships to considerable variety 
of nationality; but here were gathered, not only the 
representatives of five or six nations, but 'long-shoremen 
of all kinds, half of whom had hardly ever set eyes on 
a ship before ! The whole space was undivided by par- 
tition, but I saw at once that black men and white had 
separated themselves, the blacks taking the port side 
and the whites the starboard. Finding a vacant bunk 
by the dim glimmer of the ancient teapot lamp that 
hung amidships, giving out as much smoke as light, I 
hurriedly shifted my coat for a ** jumper" or blouse, 
put on an old cap, and climbed into the fresh air again. 
For a double reason, even my seasoned head was feeling 
bad with the villainous reek of the place, and I did not 
want any of those hard-featured officers on deck to have 
any cause to complain of my '* hanging back.'* On 
board ship, especially American ships, the first requisite 
for a sailor who wants to be treated properly is to ** show 
willing," any suspicion of slackness being noted im- 
mediately, and the backward one marked accordingly. 
I had hardly reached the deck when I was confronted 
by a negro, the biggest I ever saw in my life. He 
looked me up and down for a moment, then opening 
his ebony features in a wide smile, he said, ** Great 
snakes ! why, here's a sailor man for sure ! Guess 
thet's so, ain't it, Johnny ? " I said ** yes " very curtly, 
for I hardly liked his patronizing air ; but he snapped 
me up short with "yes, sir, when yew speak to me, 
yew blank limejuicer. I'se de fourf mate ob dis yar 
ship, en my name's Mistah Jones, *vl yew jest freeze 



ovtwaud bound. 6 

on to dat ar, ef yew want ter lib long *n die happy. See, 
Bonny." I saw, and answered promptly, "I beg your 
pardon, sir, I didn't know." **0b cawse yew didn't 
know, dat's all right, little Britisher ; naow jest skip 
aloft 'n loose dat fore-taupsle.'* ** Aye, aye, sir," I 
answered cheerily, springing at once into the fore-rigging 
and up the ratlines like a monkey, but not too fast to 
hear him chuckle, ** Dat's a smart kiddy, I bet." I 
had the big sail loose in double quick time, and sung 
out "All gone, the fore-taupsle," before any of the 
other sails were adrift. ** Loose the to-gantsle and \ 
staysles " came up from below in a voice like thunder, 
and I bounded up higher to my task. On deck I could 
see a crowd at the windlass heaving up anchor. I said 
to myself, ** They don't waste any time getting this 
packet away." Evidently they were not anxious to test 
any of the crew's swimming powers. They were wise, 
for had she remained at anchor that night I verily 
believe some of the poor wretches would have tried to 
escape. 

The anchor came aweigh, the sails were sheeted 
home, and I returned on deck to find the ship gather- 
ing way for the heads, fairly started on her long 
voyage. 

What a bear-garden the deck was, to be sure ! The 
black portion of the crew — Portuguese natives from the 
"Western and Canary Islands — were doing their work 
all right in a clumsy fashion; but the farmers, and 
bakers, and draymen were being driven about merci- 
lessly amid a perfect hurricane of profanity and blows. 
And right here I must say that, accustomed as I had 
always been to bad language all my life, what I now 
heard was a revelation to mo. I would not. if I C3ald« 



6 THE CRUISE OF THE ''CACHALOT.'' 

attempt to give a sample of it, but it must be under- 
stood that it was incessant throughout the voyage. No 
order could be given without it, under the impression, 
apparently, that the more curses the more speed. 

Before nightfall we were fairly out to sea, and the 
ceremony of dividing the crew into watches was gone 
through. I found myself in the chief mate's or **port " 
watch (they called it ** larboard," a term I had never 
heard used before, it having long been obsolete in 
merchant ships), though the huge negro fourth mate 
seemed none too well pleased that I was not under his 
command, his being the starboard watch under the 
second mate. 

As night fell, the condition of the ** greenies,V or non- 
sailor portion of the crew, was pitiable. Helpless from 
sea-sickness, not knowing where to go or what to do, 
bullied relentlessly by the ruthless petty officers — well, 
I never felt so sorry for a lot of men in my life. Glad 
enough I was to get below into the fo'lk'sle for supper, 
and a brief rest and respite from that cruelty on deck. 
A. bit of salt junk and a piece of bread, i,e. biscuit, 
flinty as a pantile, with a pot of something sweetened 
with **longlick" (molasses), made an apology for a 
meal, and I turned in. In a very few minutes oblivion 
came, making me as happy as any man can be in this 
world. 



( 7 ) 



CHAPTER n. 

PREPARING FOR ACTION. 

The hideous noise always considered necessary in those 
Hhips when calling the watch, roused me elTectively at 
midnight, ** eight hells." I hurried on deck, fully aware 
that no leisurely ten minutes would be allowed here. 
"Lay aft the watch," saluted me as I emerged into 
the keen, strong air, quickening my pace accordingly to 
where the mate stood waiting to muster his men. As 
soon as he saw me, he said, " Can you steer ? " in a 
mocking tone ; but when I quietly answered, ** Yes, sir," 
his look of astonishment was delightful to see. Ho 
choked it down, however, and merely telling me to take 
the wheel, turned forrard roaring frantically for his 
watch. I had no time to chuckle over what I knew was 
in store for him, getting those poor greenies collected 
from their several holes and corners, for on taking the 
wheel I found a machine under my hands such as I 
never even heard of before. 

The wheel was fixed upon the tiller in such a manner 
that the whole concern travelled backwards and forwards 
across the deck in the maddest kind of way. For tht> 
first quarter of an hour, in spite of the September chill, 
the sweat poured off me in streams. And the course^ 



8 TEE CRUISE OF THE "CACHALOT.'' 

well, it was not steering, it was sculling ; the old bum- 
boat was wobbling all around like a drunken tailor with 
two left legs. I fairly shook with apprehension lest the 
mate should come and look in the compass. I had been 
accustomed to hard words if I did not steer within half a 
point each way; but here was a ** gadget" that worked 
me to death, the result being a wake like a letter S. 
Gradually I got the hang of the thing, becoming easier 
in my mind on my own account. Even that was not an 
unmixed blessing, for I had now some leisure to listen 
to the goings-on around the deck. 

Such brutality I never witnessed before. On board 
of English ships (except men-of-war) there is practi- 
cally no discipline, which is bad, but this sort of thing 
was maddening. I knew how desperately ill all those 
poor wretches were, how helpless and awkward they 
would be if quite hale and hearty ; but there was abso- 
lutely no pity for them, the officers seemed to be in- 
capable of any feelings of compassion whatever. My 
heart sank within me as I thought of what lay before me, 
although I did not fear that their treatment would also 
be mine, since I was at least able to do my duty, and 
wilHng to work hard to keep out of trouble. Then I 
began to wonder what sort of voyage I was in for, how 
long it would last, and what my earnings were likely to 
be, none of which things I had the faintest idea of. 

Fortunately, I was alone in the world. No one, as far 
as I knew, cared a straw what became of me ; so that I 
was spared any worry on that head. And I had also a 
very definite and well-established trust in God, which I 
can now look back and see was as fully justified as I 
then believed it to be. So, as I could not shut my ears 
to the cruelties being carried on, nor banish thought by 



PREPARING FOR ACTION. 9 

hard work, 1 looked up to the stately stars, thinking of 
things not to be talked about without being suspected of 
cant. So swiftly passed the time that when four bells 
struck (two o'clock) I could hardly believe my ears. 

I was relieved by one of the Portuguese, and went 
forward to witness a curious scene. Seven stalwart men 
were being compelled to march up and down on that 
tumbling deck, men who had never before trodden any- 
thing less solid than the earth. 

The third mate, a waspish, spiteful little Yankee with 
a face like an angry cat, strolled about among them, a 
strand of rope-yarns in his hand, which he wielded con- 
stantly, regardless where he struck a man. They fell 
about, sometimes four or five at once, and his blows flew 
thick and fast, yet he never seemed to weary of his ill- 
doing. It made me quite sick, and I longed to be aft at 
the wheel again. Catching sight of me standing irreso- 
lute as to what I had better do, he ordered me on the 
" look-out," a tiny platform between the " knight heads," 
just where the bowsprit joins the ship. Gladly I obeyed 
him, and perched up there looking over the wide sea, 
the time passed quickly away until eight bells (four 
o'clock) terminated my watch. I must pass rapidly over 
the condition of things in the fo'lk'sle, where all the 
greenies that were allowed below, were groaning in 
misery from the stifling atmosphere which made their 
sickness so much worse, while even that dreadful place 
was preferable to what awaited them on deck. There 
was a rainbow-coloured halo round the flame of the lamp, 
showing how very bad the air was ; but in spite of that I 
turned in and slept soundly till seven bells (7.20 a.m.) 
roused us to breakfast. 

American ships generally have an excellent name for 



10 TEE CRUISE OF TEE '' CACEALOT' 

the way they feed their crews, but the whalers are a 
notable exception to that good rule. The food was really 
worse than that on board any English ship I have ever 
sailed in, so scanty also in quantity that it kept all the 
foremast hands at starvation point. But grumbling was 
dangerous, so I gulped down the dirty mixture mis-named 
coffee, ate a few fragments of biscuit, and filled up(?) 
with a smoke, as many better men are doing this morn- 
ing. As the bell struck I hurried on deck — not one 
moment too soon — for as I stepped out of the scuttle I saw 
the third mate coming forward with a glitter in his eye 
that boded no good to laggards. 

Before going any farther I must apologize for using 
so many capital I's, but up till the present I had 
been the only available white member of the crew 
forrard. 

The decks were scrubbed spotlessly clean, and every- 
thing was neat and tidy as on board a man-of-war, con- 
trary to all usual notions of the condition of a whaler. 
The mate was in a state of high activity, so I soon found 
myself very busily engaged in getting up whale-lines, 
harpoons, and all the varied equipment for the pursuit of 
whales. The number of officers carried would have been 
a good crew for the ship, the complete afterguard com- 
prising captain, four mates, four harpooners or boat- 
steerers, carpenter, cooper, steward and cook. All these 
worthies were on deck and working with might and main 
at the preparations, so that the incompetence of the 
crowd forrard was little hindrance. I was pounced 
upon by " Mistah " Jones, the fourth mate, whom I heard 
addressed familiarly as " Goliath " and ** Anak " by his 
brother officers, and ordered to assist him in rigging the 
" crow's-nest " at the main royal-mast head. It was a 



PREPABING FOR ACTION. 11 

simple affair. There were a pair of cross-trees fitted to 
the mast, upon which was secured a tiny platform about 
a foot wide on each side of the mast, while above this 
foothold a couple of padded hoops like a pair of giant 
spectacles were secured at a little higher than a man's 
waist. When all was fast one could creep up on the 
platform, through the hoop, and, resting his arms upon 
the latter, stand comfortably and gaze around, no matter 
how vigorously the old barky plunged and kicked beneath 
him. From that lofty eyrie I had a comprehensive view 
of the vessel. She was about 350 tons and full ship- 
rigged, that is to say, she carried square sails on all 
three masts. Her deck was flush fore and aft, the only 
obstructions being the brick-built " try-works '* in the 
waist, the galley, and cabin skylight right aft by the taff- 
rail. Her bulwarks were set thickly round with clumsy 
looking wooden cranes, from which depended five boats. 
Two more boats were secured bottom up upon a gallows 
aft, so she seemed to be well supplied in that direction. 
Mistah Jones, finding I did not presume upon his con- 
descension, gradually unbent and furnished me with 
many interesting facts about the officers. Captain 
Slocum, he said, was ** de debbil hisself, so jess yew 
keep yer lamps trim' fer him, sonny, taint helthy ter 
rile him." The first officer, or the mate as he is always 
called par excellence, was an older man than the captain, 
but a good seaman, a good whaleman, and a gentleman. 
Which combination I found to be a fact, although hard 
to believe possible at the time. The second mate was a 
Portuguese about forty years of age, with a face like one 
of Vandyke's cavaliers, but as I now learned, a perfect 
fiend when angered. He also was a first-class whaleman, 
but an indifferent seaman. The third mate was nothing 



12 TEE CRUISE OF TEE ** CACHALOT.'' 

much but bad temper — not much sailor, nor mucn 
whaler, generally in hot water with the skipper, who 
hated him because he was an " owner's man." ** An do 
fourf mate,*' wound up the narrator, straightening hia 
huge bulk, *' am de bes* man in de ship, and de bigges'. 
Dey aint no whalemen in Noo Bedford caynt teach me 
nuffin, en ef it comes ter man-handlin' ; w'y I jes' pick 
em two't a time *n crack 'em togerrer like so, see ! " and 
he smote the palms of his great paws against each other, 
while I nodded complete assent. 

The weather being fine, with a steady N.E. wind 
blowing, so that the sails required no attention, work 
proceeded steadily all the morning. The oars were 
sorted, examined for flaws, and placed in the boats ; 
the whale-line, manilla rope like yellow silk, IJ inch 
round, was brought on deck, stretched and coiled down 
with the greatest care into tubs, holding, some 200 
fathoms, and others 100 fathoms each. New harpoons 
were fitted to poles of rough but heavy wood, without 
any attempt at neatness, but every attention to 
strength. The shape of these weapons was not, as is 
generally thought, that of an arrow, but rather like an 
arrow with one huge barb, the upper part of which curved 
out from the shaft. The whole of the barb turned on 
a stout pivot of steel, but was kept in line with 
the shaft by a tiny wooden peg which passed through 
barb and shaft, being then cut off smoothly on both 
sides. The point of the harpoon had at one side a 
wedge-shaped edge, ground to razor keenness, the other 
side was flat. The shaft, about thirty inches long, was 
of the best malleable iron, so soft that it would tie into 
a knot and straighten out again without fracture. Three 
harpoons, or "irons" as they were always called, were 



PREPARING FOR ACTION. 13 

placed in each boat, fitted one above the other in the 
starboard bow, the first for use being always one unused 
before. Opposite to them in the boat were fitted three 
lances for the purpose of killing whales, the harpoons 
being only the means by which the boat was attached 
to a fish, and quite useless to inflict a fatal wound. 
These lances were slender spears of malleable iron 
about four feet long, with oval or heart-shaped points of 
fine steel about two inches broad, their edges kept keen 
as a surgeon's lancet. By means of a socket at the 
other end they were attached to neat handles, or "lance- 
poles,*' about as long again, the whole weapon being 
thus about eight feet in length, and furnished with a light 
line, or "lance-warp," for the purpose of drawing it 
back again when it had been darted at a whale. 

Each boat was fitted with a centre-board, or sliding 
keel, which was drawn up, when not in use, into a case 
standing in the boat's middle, very much in the way. 
But the American whalemen regard these clumsy con- 
trivances as indispensable, so there's an end on't The 
other furniture of a boat comprised five oars of varying 
lengths from sixteen to nine feet, one great steering oar 
of nineteen feet, a mast and two sails of great area for so 
small a craft, spritsail shape ; two tubs of whale-line 
containing together 1800 feet, a keg of drinking water, 
and another long narrow one with a few biscuits, a 
lantern, candles and matches therein; a bucket and 
" piggin " for baling, a small spade, a flag or ** wheft," a 
shoulder bomb-gun and ammunition, two knives and two 
small axes. A rudder hung outside by the stern. 

With all this gear, although snugly stowed, a boat 
looked so loaded that I could not help wondering how 
six men would be able to work in her; but like most 



14 TEE CBUISE OF TEE "CACEALOT," 

"deep-water*' sailors, I knew very little about boating. 
I was going to learn. 

All this work and bustle of preparation was bo 
rapidly carried on, and so interesting, that before supper- 
time everything was in readiness to commence opera- 
tions, the time having gone so swiftly that I could 
hardly believe the bell when it sounded four times, six 
o'clock. 



( IS ) 



CHAPTER ni. 

FISHING BEGINS. 

During all the bustle of warlike preparation that had 
been going on, the greenhorns had not suffered from 
inattention on the part of those appointed to look after 
them. Happily for them, the wind blew steadily, and 
the weather, thanks to the balmy influence of the Gulf 
Stream, was quite mild and genial. The ship was 
undoubtedly lively, as all good sea-boats are, but her 
motions were by no means so detestable to a sea-sick 
man as those of a driving steamer. So, in spite of 
their treatment, perhaps because of it, some of the 
poor fellows were beginning to take hold of things 
"man-fashion,** although of course sea legs they had 
none, their getting about being indeed a pilgrimage of 
pain. Some of them were beginning to try the dreadful 
"grub" (I cannot libel "food" by using it in such a 
connection), thereby showing that their interest in life, 
even such a life as was now before them, was returning. 
They had all been allotted places in the various boats, 
intermixed with the seasoned Portuguese in such a way 
that the officer and harpooner in charge would not be 
dependant upon them entirely in case of a sudden 
emergency. Every endeavour was undoubtedly made 



16 TEE CRUISE OF TEE **CACEALOT.' 

to instruct them in their duties, albeit the teachers were 
all too apt to beat their information in with anything 
that came to hand, and persuasion found no place in 
their methods. 

The reports I had always heard of the laziness pre- 
vailing on board whale-ships were now abundantly 
falsified. From dawn to dark work went on without 
cessation. Everything was rubbed and scrubbed and 
scoured until no speck or soil could be found ; indeed, no 
gentleman's yacht or man-of-war is kept more spotlessly 
clean than was the Cachalot, 

A regular and severe routine of labour was kept up ; 
and, what was most galling to me, instead of a regular 
four hours watch on and off, night and day, all hands 
were kept on deck the whole day long, doing quite 
unnecessary tasks, apparently with the object of 
preventing too much leisure and consequent brooding 
over their unhappy lot. One result of this continual 
drive and tear was that all these landsmen became 
rapidly imbued with the virtues of cleanliness, which 
was extended to the den in which we lived, or I verily 
believe sickness would have soon thinned us out. 

On the fourth day after leaving port we were all 
busy as usual except the four men in the " crow's-nests," 
when a sudden cry of ** Porps ! porps ! " brought every- 
thing to a standstill. A large school of porpoises had 
just joined us, in their usual clownish fashion, rolling 
and tumbling around the bows as the old barky wallowed 
along, surrounded by a wide ellipse of snowy foam. 
All work was instantly suspended, and active prepara- 
tions made for securing a few of these frolicsome 
fellows. A "block,'* or pulley, was hung out at the 
bowsprit end, a whale-line passed through it and " bent " 



FISniNG BEGINS. 17 

(fastened) on to a harpoon. Another line with a running 
** bowline," or elip-noose, was also passed out to the 
bowsprit end, being held there by one man in readiness. 
Then one of the harpooners ran out along the back- 
ropes, which keep the jib-boom down, taking his stand 
beneath the bowsprit with the harpoon ready. Presently 
he raised his iron and followed the track of a rising 
porpoise with its point until the creature broke water. 
At the same instant the weapon left his grasp, appa- 
rently without any force behind it; but we on deck, 
holding the line, soon found that our excited hauling 
lifted a big vibrating body clean out of the smother 
beneath. ** 'Vast hauling ! " shouted the mate, while as 
the porpoise hung dangling, the harpooner sHpped the 
ready bowline over his body, gently closing its grip round 
the " small " by the broad tail. Then we hauled on 
the noose-line, slacking away the harpoon, and in a 
minute had our prize on deck. He was dragged away 
at once and the operation repeated. Again and again 
we hauled them in, until the fore part of the deck was 
alive with the kicking, writhing sea-pigs, at least twenty 
of them. I had seen an occasional porpoise caught at 
sea before, but never more than one at a time. Here, 
however, was a wholesale catch. At last one of the 
harpooned ones plunged so furiously while being hauled 
up that he literally tore himself off the iron, falling, 
streaming with blood, back into the sea. 

Away went all the school after him, tearing at him 
with their long well-toothed jaws, some of them leaping 
high in the air in their eagerness to get their due share 
of the cannibal feast. Our fishing was over for that 
time. Meanwhile one of the harpooners had brought 
out a number of knives, with which all hands were soor 





18 TEE CRUISE OF TEE "CACHALOT.** 

busy skinning the blubber from the bodies. Porpoises 
have no skin, that is hide, the blubber or coating of lard 
which encases them being covered by a black substance 
as thin as tissue paper. The porpoise hide of the boot 
maker is really leather, made from the skin of the 
Beluga, or "white whale," which is found only in the 
far north. The cover was removed from the "try- 
works *' amidships, revealing two gigantic pots set in a 
frame of brickwork side by side, capable of holding 200 
gallons each. Such a cooking apparatus as might have 
graced a Brobdingnagian kitchen. Beneath the pots 
was the very simplest of furnaces, hardly as elaborate as 
the familiar copper-hole sacred to washing day. Square 
funnels of sheet-iron were loosely fitted to the flues, 
more as a protection against the oil boiling over into 
the fire than to carry away the smoke, of which from 
the peculiar nature of the fuel there was very little. At 
one side of the try- works was a large wooden vessel, or 
"hopper," to contain the raw blubber; at the other, a 
copper cistern or cooler of about 300 gallons capacity, into 
which the prepared oil was baled to cool off, preliminary 
to its being poured into the casks. Beneath the furnaces 
was a space as large as the whole area of the try- works, 
about a foot deep, which, when the fires were lighted, 
was filled with water to prevent the deck from burning. 
It may be imagined that the blubber from our twenty 
porpoises made but a poor show in one of the pots ; 
nevertheless, we got a barrel of very excellent oil from 
them. The fires were fed with "scrap," or pieces of 
blubber from which the oil had been boiled, some of 
which had been reserved from the previous voyage. 
They burnt with a fierce and steady blaze, leaving but 
a trace of ash. I was then informed by one of the 



FISHING BEGINS. 19 

harpooners that no other fuel was ever used for boiling 
blubber at any time, there being always amply sufficient 
for the purpose. 

The most interesting part of the whole business, 
though, to us poor half-starved wretches, was the plen- 
tiful supply of fresh meat. Porpoise beef is, when 
decently cooked, fairly good eating to a landsman ; judge, 
then, what it must have been to us. Of course the tit- 
bits, such as the liver, kidneys, brains, etc., could not 
possibly fall to our lot ; but we did not complain, we 
were too thankful to get something eatable, and enough 
of it. Moreover, although few sailors in English ships 
know it, porpoise beef improves vastly by keeping, 
getting tenderer every day the longer it hangs, until at 
last it becomes as tasty a viand as one could wish to 
dine upon. It was a good job for us that this was the 
case, for while the porpoises lasted the "harness 
casks," or salt beef receptacles, were kept locked ; so if 
any man had felt nnable to eat porpoise — well, there 
was no compulsion, he could go hungry. 

"We were now in the haunts of the Sperm Whale, or 
" Cachalot," a brilliant look-out being continually kept 
for any signs of their appearing. One officer and a 
foremast hand were continually on watch during the day 
in the main crow's-nest, one harpooner and a seaman in 
the fore one. A bounty of ten pounds of tobacco was 
ollered to whoever should first report a whale, should it 
be secured, consequently there were no sleepy eyes up 
there. Of course none of those who were inexperienced 
stood much chance against the eagle-eyed Portuguese ; 
but all tried their best, in the hope of perhaps winning 
some little favoiu: from their hard taskmasters. Every 
evening at sunset it was *' all hands shorten sail," the 



20 TEE CRUISE OF TEE ^^CACEALOT"* 

constant drill rapidly teaching even these clumsy lands 
men how to find their way aloft, and do something else 
besides hold on to anything like grim death when they 
got there. 

At last, one beautiful day, the boats were lowered 
and manned, and away went the greenies on their first 
practical lesson in the business of the voyage. As 
before noticed, there were two greenies in each boat, 
they being so arranged that whenever one of them 
"caught a crab," which of course was about every other 
stroke, his failure made little difference to the boat's 
progress. They learned very fast under the terrible 
imprecations and storm of blows from the iron-fisted and 
iron-hearted officers, so that before the day was out the 
skipper was satisfied of our ability to deal with a " fish " 
should he be lucky enough to ** raise" one. I was, in 
virtue of my experience, placed at the after-oar in the 
mate's boat, where it was my duty to attend to the 
**main sheet " when the sail was set, where also I had 
the benefit of the lightest oar except the small one used 
by the harpooner in the bow. 

The very next day after our first exhaustive boat 
drill, a school of " Black Fish " was reported from aloft, 
and with great glee the officers prepared for what they 
considered a rattling day's fun. 

The Black Fish (Phocsena Sp.) is a small toothed 
whale, not at all unlike a miniature cachalot, except that 
its head is rounded at the front, while its jaw is not 
long and straight, but bowed. It is as frolicsome as 
the porpoise, gambolling about in schools of from twenty 
to fifty or more, as if really delighted to be alive. Its 
average size is from ten to twenty feet long, and seven 
or eight feet in girth, weight from one to three tons. 



FIBBING BEGINB. 21 

Blubber about tbree inches thick, while the head is 
almost all oil, so that a good rich specimen will make 
between one and two barrels of oil of medium quality. 

The school we were now in sight of was of middling 
size and about average weight of individuals, and the 
officers esteemed it a fortunate 'circumstance that we 
should happen across them as a sort of preliminary to 
our tackling the monarchs of the deep. 

All the new harpoons were unshipped from the boats, 
and a couple of extra ** second '* irons, as those that 
have been used are called, were put into each boat for 
use if wanted. The sails were also left on board. We 
lowered and left the ship, pulling right towards the 
school, the noise they were making in their fun effec- 
tually preventing them from hearing our approach. It 
is etiquette to allow the mate's boat first place, unless 
his crew is so weak as to be unable to hold their own ; 
but as the mate always has first pick of the men this 
seldom happens. So, as usual, we were first, and soon 
I heard the order given, ** Stand up, Louey, and let 
'em have it ! " Sure enough, here we were right among 
them. Louis let drive, ** fastening " a whopper about 
twenty feet long. The injured animal plunged madly 
forward, accompanied by his fellows, while Louis calmly 
bent another iron to a ** short warp," or piece of 
whale-line, the loose end of which he made a bowline 
with round the main line which was fast to the " fish." 
Then he fastened another " fish," and the queer sight 
was seen of these two monsters each trying to flee in 
opposite directions, while the second one ranged about 
alarmingly as his "bridle" ran along the main line. 
Another one was secured in the same way, then the 
game was indeed great. Th^ school had by this time 



22 TEE CRUISE OF TEE " CACEALOT.** 

taken the alarm and cleared out, but the other boata 
were all fast to fish, so that didn't matter. Now, at 
the rate our " game " were going, it would evidently 
be a long while before they died, although, being so 
much smaller than a whale proper, a harpoon will often 
kill them at a stroke. Yet they were now so tangled or 
** snarled erp,*' as the mate said, that it was no easy 
matter to lance them without great danger of cutting 
the Hne. However, we hauled up as close to them as 
we dared, and the harpooner got a good blow in, which 
gave the biggest of the three "Jesse," as he said, 
though why " Jesse " was a stumper. Anyhow, it 
killed him promptly, while almost directly after another 
one saved further trouble by passing in his own 
checks. But he sank at the same time, drawing the 
first one down with him, so that we were in con- 
siderable danger of having to cut them adrift or be 
swamped. The " wheft " was waved thrice as an urgent 
signal to the ship to come to our assistance with all 
speed, but in the meantime our interest lay in the sur- 
viving Black Fish keeping alive. Should he die, and, 
as was most probable, sink, we should certainly have to 
cut and lose the lot, tools included. 

We waited in grim silence while the ship came up, 
so slowly, apparently, that she hardly seemed to move, 
but really at a good pace of about four knots an hour, 
which for her was not at all bad. She got alongside of 
us at last, and we passed up the bight of our line, our 
fish all safe, very much pleased with om-selves, espe- 
cially when we found that the other boats had only five 
between the three of them. 

The fish secured to the ship, all the boats were 
hoisted except one, which remained alongside to sling the 



FISHING BE0IN8. 23 

bodies. During onr absence the ship-keepers bad been 
busy rigging one of the cutting falls, an immense four- 
fold tackle from the main lowermast-head, of four-inch 
rope through great double blocks, large as those used at 
dockyards for lifting ships* masts and boilers. Chain- 
slings were passed around the carcases, which gripped 
the animal at the ** small,** being prevented from slip- 
ping off by the broad spread of the tail. The end of 
the " fall,*' or tackle-rope, was then taken to the wind- 
lass, and we hove away cheerily, lifting the monsters 
right on deck. A mountainous pile they made. A 
short spell was allowed, when the whole eight were on 
board, for dinner; then all hands turned to again to 
** flench " the blubber, and prepare for trying-out. This 
was a heavy job, keeping all hands busy until it was 
quite dark, the latter part of the work being carried on 
by the light of a *' cresset,'* the flames of which were 
fed with *' scrap,** which blazed brilliantly, throwing a 
big glare over all the ship. The last of the carcases 
was launched overboard by about eight o'clock that 
evening, but not before some vast junks of beef had 
been cut off and hung up in the rigging for our food 
supply. 

The try-works were started again, " trying-out ** 
going on busily all night, watch and watch taking their 
turn at keeping the pots supplied with minced blubber. 
The work was heavy, while the energetic way in which 
it was carried on made us all glad to take what rest was 
allowed us, which was scanty enough, as usual. 

By nightfall the next day the ship had resumed her 
normal appearance, and we were a tun and a quarter 
of oil to the good. Black Fish oil is of medium quality, 
but I learned that, according to the rule of "roguery in 



24 TEE CEUISE OF TEE "CACEALOT." 

all trades," it was the custom to mix quantities such 
as we had just obtained with better class whale-oil, 
and thus get a much higher price than it was really 
worth. 

Up till this time we had no sort of an idea as to 
where our first objective might be, but from scraps of 
conversation I had overheard among the harpooners, I 
gathered that we were making for the Cape Verde 
Islands or the Azores, in the vicinity of which a good 
number of moderate-sized sperm whales are often to be 
found. In fact, these islands have long been a nursery 
for whale-fishers, because the cachalot loves their steep- 
to shores, and the hardy natives, whenever and wherever 
they can muster a boat and a little gear, are always 
ready to sally forth and attack the unwary whale that 
ventures within their ken. Consequently more than half 
of the total crews of the American whaling fleet are 
composed of these islanders. Many of them have risen 
to the position of captain, and still more are officers 
and harpooners ; but though undoubtedly brave and 
enterprising, they are cruel and treacherous, and in 
positions of authority over men of Teutonic or Anglo- 
Saxon origin, are apt to treat their subordinates with 
great cruelty. 



( 25 ) 



CHAPTER IV. 

BAD WEATHEB. 

Nautical routine in its essential details is much the 
same in all ships, whether naval, merchant, or whaling 
vessels. But while in the ordinary merchantman there 
are decidedly ** no more cats than can catch mice,** 
hardly, indeed, sufficient for all the mousing that should 
be done, in men-of-war and whaleships the number of 
hands carried, being far more than are wanted for 
everyday work, must needs be kept at unnecessary 
duties in order that they may not grow lazy and dis- 
contented. 

For instance, in the Cachalot we carried a crew of 
thirty- seven all told, of which twenty-four were men 
before the mast, or common seamen, our tonnage being 
under 400 tons. Many a splendid clipper-ship carrying 
an enormous spread of canvas on four masts, and not 
overloaded with 2500 tons of cargo on board, carries 
twenty-eight or thirty all told, or even less than that 
As far as we were concerned, the result of this was that 
our landsmen got so thoroughly drilled, that within a 
week of leaving port they hardly knew themselves for 
the cbimsy clodhoppers they at first appeared to be. 

\\e had now been eight days out, and in our 



26 TEE CBUISE OF TEE " CACEALOT.'' 

leisurely way were making fair progress across the 
Atlantic, having had nothing, so far, but steady breezes 
and fine weather. As it was late autumn — the first 
week in October — I rather wondered at this, for even in 
my brief experience I had learned to dread a *' fall " 
voyage across the ** Western Ocean.** 

Gradually the face of the sky changed, and the feel of 
the air, from balmy and genial, became raw and cheer- 
less. The little wave tops broke short off and blew back- 
wards, apparently against the wind, while the old vessel 
had an uneasy, unnatural motion, caused by a long, new 
swell rolling athwart the existing set of the sea. Then 
the wind became fitful and changeable, backing half 
round the compass, and veering forward again as much 
in an hour, until at last in one tremendous squall it 
settled in the N.W. for a business-like blow. Unlike the 
hurried merchantman who must needs "hang on** till 
the last minute, only shortening the sail when absolutely 
compelled to do so, and at the first sign of the gales 
relenting, piling it on again, we were all snug long before 
the storm burst upon us, and now rode comfortably 
under the tiniest of storm staysails. 

We were evidently in for a fair specimen of Western 
Ocean weather, but the clumsy-looking, old-fashioned 
Cachalot made no more fuss over it than one of the 
long-winged sea-birds that floated around, intent only 
upon snapping up any stray scraps that might escape 
from us. Higher rose the wind, heavier rolled the sea, 
yet never a drop of water did we ship, nor did any- 
thing about the deck betoken what a heavy gale was 
blowing. During the worst of the weather, and just 
after the wind had shifted back into the N.E., making 
an uglier cross sea than ever get up, along comes an 



BAD WEATHER, 27 

immense four-masted iron ship homeward bomid. She 
was Btaggoring under a veritable mountain of canvas, 
fairly burying her bows in the foam at every forward 
drive, and actually wetting the clews of the upper topsails 
in the smothering masses of spray, that every few 
minutes almost hid her hull from sight. 

It was a splendid picture ; but — for the time — I felt 
glad I was not on board of her. In a very few minutes 
she was out of our ken, followed by the admiration of all. 
Then came, from the other direction, a huge steamship, 
taking no more notice of the gale than as ifit were calm. 
Straight through the sea she rushed, dividing the mighty 
rollers to the heart, and often bestriding three seas at 
once, the centre one spreading its many tons of foaming 
water fore and aft, so that from every orifice spouted 
the seething brine. Compared with these greyhounds 
of the wave, we resembled nothing so much as some old 
lightship bobbing serenely around, as if part and parcel 
of the mid- Atlantic. 

Our greenies were getting so well seasoned by this 
time that even this rough weather did not knock any 
of them over, and from that time forward they had no 
more trouble from sea-sickness. 

The gale gradually blew itself out, leaving behind 
only a long and very heavy swell to denote the deep- 
reaching disturbance that the ocean had endured. 
And now we were within the range of the Sargasso 
Weed, that mysterious fucus that makes the ocean look 
like some vast hayfield, and keeps the sea from rising, 
no matter how high the wind. It fell a dead calm, and 
the harpooners amused themselves by dredging up great 
masses of the weed, and turning out the many strange 
creatures abiding therein. What a world of wonderful 



28 TEE CBUISE OF TEE "CACEALOT^ 

life the weed is, to be sure ! In it the flying fish spawn 
and the tiny cuttle-fish breed, both of them preparing 
bounteous provision for the larger denizens of the deep 
that have no other food. Myriads of tiny crabs and 
innumerable specimens of less-known shell-fish, small 
fish of species as yet unclassified in any work on natural 
history, with jelly-fish of every conceivable and incon- 
ceivable shape, form part of this great and populous 
country in the sea. At one haul there was brought on 
board a mass of flying-fish spawn, about ten pounds in 
weight, looking like nothing so much as a pile of ripe 
white currants, and clinging together in a very similar 
manner. 

Such masses of ova I had often seen cast up among 
the outlying rocks on the shores of the Caribbean Sea, 
when as a shipwrecked lad I wandered idly about un- 
burying turtle eggs from their snug beds in the warm 
sand, and chasing the many-hued coral fish from one 
hiding place to another. 

While loitering in these smooth waters, waiting for 
the laggard wind, up came a shoal of dolphin, ready as 
at all times to attach themselves for awhile to the ship. 
Nothing is more singular than the manner in which 
deep-sea fish will accompany a vessel that is not going 
too fast — sometimes for days at a time. Most convenient 
too, and providing hungry Jack with many a fresh mess 
he would otherwise have missed. Of all these friendly 
fish, none is better known than the ** dolphin," as from 
long usage sailors persist in calling them, and will doubt- 
less do so until the end of the chapter. For the true 
dolphin (Delphinidse) is not a fish at all, but a mammal 
— a warm-blooded creature that suckles its young, and in 
its most familiar form is known to most people as the 



BAD WEATEES. 29 

porpoise. The sailor's " dolphin/' on the other hand, ir 
a veritable fish, with yertical tail fin instead of the 
horizontal one which distinguishes all the whale family, 
scales and gills. 

It is well known to literature, under its sea-name, for 
its marvellous brilliancy of colour, and there are few 
objects more dazzling than a dolphin leaping out of a 
calm sea into the sunshine. The beauty of a dying 
dolphin, however, though sanctioned by many genera- 
tions of writers, is a delusion, all the glory of the fish 
departing as soon as he is withdrawn from his native 
element. 

But this habit of digression grows upon one, and I 
must do my best to check it, or I shall never get through 
my task. 

To resume then : when this school of dolphin (I can't 
for the life of me call them Coryplissna hippuris) came 
alongside, a rush was made for the ** granes " — a sort of 
five-pronged trident, if I may be allowed a baby bull. 
It was universally agreed among the fishermen that 
trying a hook and line was only waste of time and pro- 
vocative of profanity ! since every sailor knows that all 
the deep-water big fish require a living or apparently 
living bait. The fish, however, sheered off, and would 
not be tempted within reach of that deadly fork by any 
lure. Then did I cover myself with glory. For he who 
can fish cleverly and luckily may be sure of fairly good 
times in a whaler, although he may be no great things 
at any other work. I had a line of my own, and begging 
one of the small fish that had been hauled up in the Gulf 
weed, I got permission to go aft and fish over the taffrail. 
The little fish was carefully secured on the hook, the 
point of which just protruded near his tail. Then I 



30 THE CBUISE OF TEE " CACHALOT:' 

lowered him into the calm blue waters beneath, and 
paid out line very gently, until my bait was a silvery 
spot about a hundred feet astern. Only a very short 
time, and my hopes rose as I saw one bright gleam after 
another glide past the keel, heading aft. Then came a 
gentle drawing at the line, which I suffered to slip slowly 
through my fingers until I judged it time to try whether 
I was right or wrong. A long hard pull, and my heart 
beat fast as I felt the thrill along the line that fishermen 
love. None of your high art here, but haul in hand 
over hand, the hne being strong enough to land a 250 
pound fish. Up he came, the beauty, all silver and scarlet 
and blue, five feet long if an inch, and weighing 35 
pounds. Well, such a lot of astonished men I never saw. 
They could hardly believe their eyes. That such a daring 
innovation should be successful was hardly to be believed, 
even with the vigorous evidence before them. Even 
grim Captain Slocum came to look, and turned upon 
me as I thought a less lowering brow than usual, while 
Mr. Count, the mate, fairly chuckled again at the 
thought of how the little Britisher had wiped the eyes 
of these veteran fishermen. The captive was cut 
open, and two recent flying-fish found in his maw, 
which were utilized for new bait, with the result 
that there was a cheerful noise of hissing and splutter- 
ing in the galley soon after, and a mess of fish for all 
hands. 

Shortly afterwards a fresh breeze sprang up, which 
proved to be the beginning of the N.E. trades, and fairly 
guaranteed us against any very bad weather for some 
time to come. 

Somehow or other it had leaked out that we were to 
cruise the Cape Yerd Islands for a spell before working 



BAD WEATHER. 31 

Bouth, and the knowledge Beemed to have quite an 
enlivening efifect upon our Portuguese shipmates. 

Most of them helonged there, and although there was 
but the faintest prospect of their getting ashore upon 
any pretext whatever, the possibility of seeing their 
island homes again seemed to quite transform them. 
Hitherto they had been very moody and exclusive, never 
associating with us on the white side, or attempting to 
be at all familiar. A mutual atmosphere of suspicion, 
in fact, seemed to pervade our quarters, making things 
already uncomfortable enough, still more so. Now, 
however, they fraternized with us, and in a variety of 
uncouth ways made havoc of the English tongue, as 
they tried to impress us with the beauty, fertility and 
general incomparability of their beloved Cape Verds. 
Of the eleven white men besides myself in the forecastle, 
there were a middle-aged German baker, who had bolted 
from Buffalo ; two Hungarians, who looked like noblemen 
disguised — in dii't; two slab-sided Yankees of about 
22 from farms in Vermont ; a drayman from New York ; 
a French Canadian from the neighbourhood of Quebec ; 
two Italians from Genoa ; and two nondescripts that I 
never found out the origin of. Imagine, then, the babel 
of sound, and think — but no, it is impossible to think, 
what sort of a jargon was compounded of all these 
varying elements of language. 

One fortunate thing, there was peace below. Indeed, 
the spirit seemed completely taken out of all of them, and 
by some devilish ingenuity the afterguard had been able 
to sow distrust between them all, while treating them 
like dogs, so that the miseries of their life were never 
openly discussed. My position among them gave me at 
times some uneasiness. Though I tried to be helpful to 



32 TEE CRUISE OF TEE "CACEALOT."* 

all, and was full of sympathy for their undeserved 
sufferings, I could not but feel that they would have 
been more than human had they not envied me my 
immunity from the kicks and blows they all shared so 
impartially. However, there was no help for it, so I 
went on as cheerily as I could. 

A peculiarity of all these vessels, as I afterwards 
learned, was that no stated allowance of anything was 
made. Even the water was not served out to us, but 
was kept in a great scuttle-butt by the cabin door, to 
which every one who needed a drink had to go, and 
from which none might be carried away. No water was 
allowed for washing except from the sea ; and every one 
knows, or should know, that neither flesh nor clothes 
can be cleansed with that. But a cask with a perforated 
top was lashed by the bowsprit and kept filled with 
urine, which I was solemnly assured by Goliath was the 
finest dirt-extractor in the world for clothes. The 
officers did not avail themselves of its virtues though, 
but were content with ley, which was furnished in 
plenty by the ashes from the galley fire, where nothing 
but wood was used as fuel. Of course when rain fell we 
might have a good wash, if it was night and no other 
work was toward ; but we were not allowed to store any 
for washing purposes. Another curious but absolutely 
necessary custom prevailed in consequence of the short 
commons under which we lived. When the portion of 
meat was brought down in its wooden kid, or tub, at 
dinner-time, it was duly divided as fairly as possible 
into as many parts as there were mouths. Then one 
man turned his back upon the carver, who, holding up 
each portion, called out, ** Who's this for ? " Whatever 
name was mentioned by the arbitrator, that man 



BAD WBATUEB. 83 

owning it received the piece, and had perforce to be 
satisHed therewith. Thus justice was done to all in the 
only way possible, and without any friction whatever. 

As some of us were without clothes except what we 
stood upright in, when we joined, the " slop chest " was 
opened, and every applicant received from the steward 
what Captain Slocum thought fit to let him have, being 
debited with the cost against such wages as he might 
afterwards earn. The clothes were certainly of fairly 
good quality, if the price was high, and exactly suited 
to our requirements. Soap, matches, and tobacco were 
likewise supplied on the same terms, but at higher prices 
than I had ever heard of before for these necessaries. 
After much careful inquiry I ascertained what, in the 
event of a successful voyage, we were likely to earn. 
Each of us were on the two hundredth *' lay " or share 
at $200 per tun, which meant that for every two hundred 
barrels of oil taken on board, we were entitled to one, 
which we must sell to the ship at the rate of £40 per 
tun or £4 per barrel. Truly a magnificent outlook for 
young men bound to such a business for three or four 
years. 



34 TEE CEUIISE OF TEE " CACEALOZ* 



CHAPTER V. 

ACTUAL WARFARE. OUR FIRST WHALE. 

Simultaneous ideas occurring to several people, or 
thought transference, whatever one likes to call the 
phenomenon, is too frequent an occurrence in most of 
our experience to occasion much surprise. Yet on the 
occasion to which I am about to refer, the matter was 
so very marked that few of us who took part in the day's 
proceedings are ever likely to forget it. 

We were all gathered about the fo'lk'sle scuttle one 
evening, a few days after the gale referred to in the 
previous chapter, and the question of whale-fishing came 
up for discussion. Until that time, strange as it may 
seem, no word of this, the central idea of all our minds, 
had been mooted. Every man seemed to shun the subject, 
although we were in daily expectation of being called 
upon to take an active part in whale-fighting. Once 
the ice was broken, nearly all had something to say 
about it, and very nearly as many addle-headed opinions 
were ventilated as at a Colney Hatch debating society. 
For we none of us knew anything about it. I was 
appealed to continually to support this or that theory, 
but as far as whaling went I could only, like the rest of 
them, draw upon my imagination for details. How did 



ACTUAL WARFARE, OUR FIRST WHALE. 35 

a whale act, what were the first steps taken, what 
chance was there of being saved if your boat got 
smashed, and so on unto infinity. At last, getting very 
tired of this *' Portugee Parliament " of all talkers and 
no listeners, I went aft to get a drink of water before 
turning in. The harpooners and other petty officers 
were grouped in the waist, earnestly discussing the pros 
and cons of attack upon whales. As I passed I heard 
the mate's harpooner say, " Feels like whale about. I 
beta plug (of tobacco) we raise sperm whale to-morrow." 
Nobody took his bet, for it appeared that they were 
mostly of the same mind, and while I was drinking I 
heard the officers in dignified conclave talking over the 
same thing. It was Saturday evening, and while at 
home people were looking forward to a day's respite from 
work and care, I felt that the coming day, though never 
taken much notice of on board, was big with the proba- 
bilities of strife such as I at least had at present no idea 
of. So firmly was I possessed by the prevailing feeling. 
The night was very quiet. A gentle breeze was 
blowing, and the sky was of the usual ** Trade '* 
character, that is, a dome of dark blue fringed at the 
horizon with peaceful cumulus clouds, almost motion- 
less. I turned in at four a.m. from the middle watch 
and, as usual, slept like a babe. Suddenly I started wide 
awake, a long mournful sound sending a thrill to my 
very heart. As I listened breathlessly other sounds of 
the same character but in different tones joined in, 
human voices monotonously intoning in long drawn-out 
expirations the single word *'bl-o-o-o-o-w.'* Then came 
a hurricane of noise overhead, and adjurations in no 
gentle language to the sleepers to ** tumble up lively 
there, no skulking, sperm whales." At last, then, 



36 TBB CBUISE OF TEE "OACMALOT" 

fulfilling all the presentiments of yesterday, the long 
dreaded moment had arrived. Happily there was no 
time for hesitation, in less than two minutes we were 
all on deck, and hurrying to our respective boats. There 
was no flurry or confusion, and except that orders were 
given more quietly than usual, with a manifest air of 
suppressed excitement, there was nothing to show that we 
were not going for an ordinary course of boat drill. The 
skipper was in the main crow's-nest with his binoculars. 
Presently he shouted, ** Naow then, Mr. Count, lower 
away soon*s y'like. Small pod o'cows, an' one 'r two 
bulls layin' off to west'ard of 'em." Down went the 
boats into the water quietly enough, we all scrambled 
in and shoved off. A stroke or two of the oars were given 
to get clear of the ship, and one another, then oars were 
shipped and up went the sails. As I took my allotted 
place at the main- sheet, and the beautiful craft started 
off like some big bird, Mr. Count leant forward, saying 
impressively to me, *'Y'r a smart youngster, an' I've 
kinder took t'yer ; but don't ye look ahead an' get gallied, 
'r I'll knock ye stiff wi' th' tiller ; y'hear me ? N' don't 
ye dare to make thet sheet fast, 'r ye'll die so sudden y' 
won't know whar y'r hurted." I said as cheerfully as I 
could, ** All right, sir," trying to look unconcerned, telling 
myself not to be a coward, and all sorts of things ; but 
the cold truth is that I was scared almost to death 
because I didn't know what was coming. However, I 
did the best thing under the circumstances, obeyed orders 
and looked steadily astern, or up into the bronzed im- 
passive face of my chief, who towered above me, scanning 
with eagle eyes the sea ahead. The other boats were 
coming flying along behind us, spreading wider apart as 
they came, while in the bows of each stood the harpooner 



ACTUAL WARFARE, OUR FIRST WEALB. 37 

with his right hand on hia first iron, which lay ready, 
pointing over the bow in a raised fork of wood called the 
"crutch." 

All of a sudden, at a motion of the chiefs hand, the 
peak of our mainsail was dropped, and the boat swung 
up into the wind, laying **hove to," almost stationary. 
The centre-board was lowered to stop her drifting to 
leeward, although I cannot say it made much difference 
that ever I saw. Now what's the matter, I thought, 
when to my amazement the chief addressing me said, 
** Wonder why we've hauled up, don't ye ? " *' Yes, sir, 
I do," said I. ** Wall," said he, '* the fish hev sounded, 
an* 'ef we run over 'em, we've seen the last ov'em. So 
we wait awhile till they rise agin, 'n then we'll prob'ly 
git thar' 'r thareabouts before they sound agin." With 
this explanation I had to be content, although if it be no 
clearer to my readers than it then was to me, I shall 
have to explain myself more fully later on. Silently we 
lay, rocking lazily upon the gentle swell, no other word 
being spoken by any one. At last Louis, the harpooner, 
gently breathed **blo-o-o-w; " and there, sure enough, 
not half a mile away on the lee beam, was a little bushy 
cloud of steam apparently rising from the sea. At 
almost the same time as we kept away all the other 
boats did likewise, and just then, catching sight of the 
ship, the reason for this apparently concerted action 
was explained. At the main-mast head of the ship was 
a square blue flag, and the ensign at the peak was being 
dipped. These were signals well understood and 
promptly acted upon by those in charge of the boats, 
who were thus guided from a point of view at least one 
hundred feet above the sea. 

*' Stand up, Louey," the mate murmured softly. I 



38 TEE CRUISE OF TEE '' CACEALOT,*" 

only just stopped myself in time from turning my head 
to see why the order was given. Suddenly there was a 
bump, at the same moment the mate yelled, " Give't to 
him, Louey, give't to him ! " and to me, ** Haul that main 
sheet, naow haul, why don't ye ? " I hauled it flat aft, 
and the boat shot up into the wind, rubbing sides as she 
did so with what to my troubled sight seemed an 
enormous mass of black india-rubber floating. As we 
crawled up into the wind, the whale went into convul- 
sions befitting his size and energy. He raised a 
gigantic tail on high, threshing the water with deafening 
blows, rolling at the same time from side to side until 
the surrounding sea was white with froth. I felt in an 
agony lest we should be crushed under one of those 
fearful strokes, for Mr. Count appeared to be oblivious 
of possible danger, although we seemed to be now drift- 
ing back on to the writhing leviathan. In the agitated 
condition of the sea, it was a task of no ordinary diffi- 
culty to unship the tall mast, which was of course the 
first thing to be done. After a desperate struggle, and 
a narrow escape from falling overboard of one of the 
men, we got the long "stick," with the sail bundled 
around it, down and " fleeted " aft, where it was secured 
by the simple means of sticking the " heel *' under the 
after thwart, two-thirds of the mast extending out over 
the stern. Meanwhile, we had certainly been in a posi- 
tion of the greatest danger, our immunity from damage 
being unquestionably due to anything but precaution 
taken to avoid it. 

By the time the oars were handled, and the mate had 
exchanged places with the harpooner, our friend the 
enemy had " sounded," that is, he had gone below for a 
change of scene, marvelling no doubt what strange thing 




^ 


,n 


'm\^ < 


*5 ' 1, ' s ^ 


/''J 




ACTUAL WARFARE, OUR FIRST WHALE. 30 

had befallen him. Agreeably to the accounts which I, 
like most boys, had read of the whale fishery, I looked 
for the rushing of the line round the loggerhead (a stout 
wooden post built into the boat aft), to raise a cloud of 
smoke with occasional bursts of flame ; so as it bogan to 
slowly surge round the post, I timidly asked the har- 
pooner whether I should throw any water on it. " Wot 
for? •• growled he, as he took a couple more turns with 
it. Not knowing " what for," and hardly liking to quote 
my authorities here, I said no more, but waited events. 
** Hold him up, Louey, hold him up, cain*t ye ? ** shouted 
the mate, and to my horror, down went the nose of the 
boat almost under water, while at the mate's order every- 
body scrambled aft into the elevated stem sheets. 

The line sang quite a tune as it was grudgingly 
allowed to surge round the loggerhead, filling one with 
admiration at the strength shown by such a small rope. 
This sort of thing went on for about twenty minutes, in 
which time we quite emptied the large tub and began on 
the small one. As there was nothing whatever for us to 
do while this was going on, I had ample leisure for 
observing the little game that was being played about a 
quarter of a mile away. Mr. Cruce, the second mate, had 
got a whale and was doing his best to kill it ; but he was 
severely handicapped by his crew, or rather had been, 
for two of them were now temporarily incapable of either 
good or harm. They had gone quite ** batchy " with 
fright, requiring a not too gentle application of the tiller 
to their heads in order to keep them quiet. The remedy, 
if rough, was effectual, for ** the subsequent proceedings 
interested them no more." Consequently his manoeuvres 
were not so well or rapidly executed as he, doubtless, 
could have wished, although his energy in lancing that 



40 TEE CEUISE OF TBE "CACHALOT,'' 

"whale was something to admire and remember. Hatless, 
his shirt tail out of the waist of his trousers streaming 
behind him like a banner, he lunged and thrust at the 
whale alongside of him, as if possessed of a destroying 
devil, while his half articulate yells of rage and 
blasphemy were audible even to us. 

Suddenly our boat fell backward from her " slantin- 
dicular " position with a jerk, and the mate immediately 
shouted, ** Haul line, there ! look lively, now ! you — so 
on, etcetera, etcetera " (he seemed to invent new epi- 
thets on every occasion). The line came in hand over 
hand, and was coiled in a wide heap in the stern sheets, 
for silky as it was, it could not be expected in its wet 
state to lie very close. As it came flying in the mate 
kept a close gaze upon the water immediately beneath 
us, apparently for the first glimpse of our antagonist. 
"When the whale broke water, however, he was some 
distance off, and apparently as quiet as a lamb. Now, 
had Mr. Count been a prudent or less ambitious man, 
our task would doubtless have been an easy one, or 
comparatively so ; but, being a little over-grasping, he 
got us all into serious trouble. We were hauling up to 
our whale in order to lance it, and the mate was stand- 
ing, lance in hand, only waiting to get near enough, 
when up comes a large whale right alongside of our 
boat, so close, indeed, that I might have poked my 
finger in his little eye, if I had chosen. The sight 
of that whale at liberty, and calmly taking stock of 
us like that, was too much for the mate. He lifted 
his lance and hurled it at the visitor, in whose broad 
flank it sank, like a knife into butter, right up to 
the pole-hitches. The recipient disappeared like a 
flash, but before one had time to think, there was ap 



ACTUAL WARFARE, OUR FIRST WHALE. 41 

awful crash beneath us, and the mate shot up into the 
air like a bomb from a mortar. He came down in a 
sitting posture on the mast-thwart ; but as he fell, the 
whole framework of the boat collapsed like a derelict 
umbrella. Louis quietly chopped the line and severed 
our connection with the other whale, while in accor- 
dance with our instructions we drew each man his oar 
across the boat and lashed it firmly down with a piece 
of line spliced to each thwart for the purpose. This 
simple operation took but a minute, but before it was 
completed we were all up to our necks in the sea. Still 
in the boat, it is true, and therefore not in such danger 
of drowning as if we were quite adrift ; but, considering 
that the boat was reduced to a mere bundle of loose 
planks, I, at any rate, was none too comfortable. Now, 
had he known it, was the whale's golden opportunity ; 
but he, poor wretch, had had quite enough of our 
company, and cleared off without any delay, wondering, 
no doubt, what fortunate accident had rid him of our 
very unpleasant attentions. 

I was assured that we were all as safe as if we were 
on board the ship, to which I answered nothing ; but, 
like Jack's parrot, I did some powerful thinking. Every 
little wave that came along swept clean over our heads, 
sometimes coming so suddenly as to cut a breath in 
half. If the wind should increase — but no — I wouldn't 
face the possibility of such a disagreeable thing. I 
was cool enough now in a double sense, for although we 
were in the tropics, we soon got thoroughly chilled. 

By the position of the sun it must have been between 
ten a.m. and noon, and we, of the crew, had eaten 
nothing since the previous day at supper, when, as 
upual, the meal was very light. Therefore, I suppose 



42 THE CRUISE OF THE "CACHALOT:' 

we felt the chill sooner than the better-nourished mate 
and harpooner, who looked rather scornfully at our blue 
faces and chattering teeth. 

In spite of all assurances to the contrary, I have 
not the least doubt in my own mind that a very little 
longer would have relieved us of all our burdens finally. 
Because the heave of the sea had so loosened the 
shattered planks upon which we stood that they were 
on the verge of falling all asunder. Had they done so 
we must have drowned, for we were cramped and stiff 
with cold and our constrained position. However, 
unknown to us, a bright look-out upon our movements 
had been kept from the crow's-nest the whole time. We 
should have been relieved long before, but that the 
whale killed by the second mate was being secured, and 
another boat, the fourth mate's, being picked up, 
having a hole in her bilge you could put your head 
through. With all these hindrances, especially securing 
the whale, we were fortunate to be rescued as soon as 
we were, since it is well known that whales are of much 
higher commercial value than men. 

However, help came at last, and we were hauled 
alongside. Long exposure had weakened us to such an 
extent that it was necessary to hoist us on board, 
especially the mate, whose " sudden stop," when he 
returned to us after his little aerial excursion, had 
shaken his sturdy frame considerably', a state of body 
which the subsequent soaking had by no means im- 
proved. In my innocence I imagined that we should 
be commiserated for our misfortunes by Captain Slocum, 
and certainly be relieved from further duties until we 
were a little recovered from the rough treatment we had 
just undergone. But I never made a greater mistake. 



ACTUAL WARFARE, OUR FIRST WHALE. 43 

The skipper cursed us all (except the mate, whose sole 
fault the accident undoubtedly was) with a fluency and 
vigour that was, to put it mildly, discouraging. More- 
over, we were informed that he " wouldn't have no 
adjective skulking ; " we must " turn to " and do some- 
thing after wasting the ship's time and property in such 
a blank manner. There was a limit, however, to our 
obedience, so although we could not move at all for 
awhile, his throats were not proceeded with farther 
than theory. 

A couple of slings were passed around the boat, by 
means of which she was carefully hoisted on board, a 
mere dilapidated bundle of sticks and raffle of gear. 
She was at once removed aft out of the way, the busi- 
ness of cutting in the whale claiming precedence over 
everything else just then. The preliminary proceedings 
consisted of rigging the "cutting stage." This was 
composed of two stout planks a foot wide and ten feet 
long, the inner ends of which were suspended by strong 
ropes over the ship's side about four feet from the water, 
while the outer extremities were upheld by tackles from 
the main rigging, and a small crane abreast the try- 
works. 

These planks were about thirty feet apart, their two 
outer ends being connected by a massive plank which 
was securely bolted to them. A handrail about as high 
as a man's waist, supported by light iron stanchions, 
ran the full length of this plank on the side nearest 
the ship, the whole fabric forming an admirable stand- 
ing-place from whence the officers might, standing in 
comparative comfort, cut and carve at the great mass 
below to their hearts' content. 

So far the prize had been ffimply held alongside by 



44 TEE CRUISE OF TEE ** CACEALOT,"* 

the whale-line, which at death had been "rove" 
through a hole cut in the solid gristle of the tail ; but 
now it became necessary to secure the carcase to the 
ship in some more permanent fashion. Therefore, a 
massive chain like a small ship's cable was brought 
forward, and in a very ingenious way, by means of a 
tiny buoy and a hand-lead, passed round the body, one 
end brought through a ring in the other, and hauled 
upon until it fitted tight round the *' small '* or part of 
the whale next the broad spread of the tail. The free 
end of the fluke-chain was then passed in through a 
mooring-pipe forward, firmly secured to a massive bitt 
at the heel of the bowsprit (the fluke-chain-bitt), and all 
was ready. 

But the subsequent proceedings were sufficiently 
complicated to demand a fresh chapter. 



( ^ ) 



CHiPTER VI. 

*• DIRTY WORK FOR CLEAN MONET." 

Ip in tho preceding chapter too much stress has been 
laid upon the smashing of our own boat and consequent 
sufTerings, while little or no notice was taken of the 
kindred disaster to Mistah Jones' vessel, my excuse 
must be that the experience *' filled me right up to the 
chin," as the mate concisely, if inelegantly, put it. 
Poor Goliath was indeed to be pitied, for his well-known 
luck and capacity as a whaleman seemed on this occa- 
sion to have quite deserted him. Not only had his 
boat been stove upon first getting on to the whale, but 
he hadn't even had a run for his money. It appeared 
that upon striking his whale, a small, lively cow, she 
had at once "settled," allowing the boat to run over 
her; but just as they were passing, she rose, gently 
enough, her pointed hump piercing the thin skin of 
half-inch cedar as if it had been cardboard. She settled 
again immediately, leaving a hole behind her a foot 
long by six inches wide, which effectually put a stop to 
all further fishing operations on the part of Gohath 
and his merry men for that day, at any rate. It was 
all 80 quiet, and so tame and so stupid, no wonder 
Mistah Jones felt savage. When Captain Slocum'g 



46 THE CBVISE OF THE "CACHALOTS 

fluent profanity flickered around him, including vehe- 
mently all he might be supposed to have any respect for, 
he did not even look as if he would like to talk back ; 
he only looked sick and tired of being himself. 

The third mate, a^in, was of a different category 
altogether. He had distinguished himself by missing 
every opportunity of getting near a whale while there 
was a " loose " one about, and then " saving " the crew 
of Goliath's boat, who were really in no danger what- 
ever. His iniquity was too great to be dealt with by 
mere bad language. He crept about like a homeless dog 
— much, I am afraid, to my secret glee, for I couldn't 
help remembering his untiring cruelty to the green 
hands on first leaving port. 

In consequence of these little drawbacks we were not 
a very jovial crowd forrard or aft. Not that hilarity was 
ever particularly noticeable among us, but just now 
there was a very decided sense of wrong-doing over us 
all, and a general fear that each of us was about to pay 
the penalty due to some other delinquent. But fortu- 
nately there was work to be done. Oh, blessed work ! 
how many awkward situations you have extricated 
people from ! How many distracted brains have you 
soothed and restored, by your steady irresistible pressure 
of duty to be done and brooking of no delay ! 

The first thing to be done was to cut the whale's head 
off. This operation, involving the greatest amount of 
labour in the whole of the cutting in, was taken in hand 
by the first and second mates, who, armed with twelve- 
feet spades, took their station upon the stage, leaned 
over the handrail to steady themselves, and plunged 
their weapons vigorously down through the massive 
neck of the animal — if neck it could be said to have — 



"DIRTY WORK FOR CLEAN MONET.** 47 

following a well-defined crease in the blabber. At the 
same time the other ol£cers passed a heavy chain sling 
around the long, narrow lower jaw, hooking one of the 
big cutting tackles into it, the "fall" of which was 
then taken to the windlass and hove tight, turning the 
whale on her back. A deep cut was then made on 
both sides of the rising jaw, the windlass was kept 
going, and gradually the whole of the throat was raised 
high enough for a hole to be cut through its mass, into 
which the strap of the second cutting tackle was inserted 
and secured by passing a huge toggle of oak through 
its eye. The second tackle was then hove taut, and 
the jaw, with a large piece of blubber attached, was cut 
off from the body with a boarding-knife, a tool not 
unlike a cutlass blade set into a three-foot-long wooden 
handle. 

Upon being severed the whole piece swung easily 
inboard and was lowered on deck The fast tackle was 
now hove upon while the third mate on the stage cut 
down diagonally into the blubber on the body, which 
the purchase ripped off in a broad strip or "blanket" 
about five feet wide and a foot thick. Meanwhile the 
other two officers carved away vigorously at the head, 
varying their labours by cutting a hole right through 
the snout. This when completed received a heavy 
chain for the purpose of securing the head. "When the 
blubber had been about half stripped off the body, a 
halt was called in order that the work of cutting off 
the head might be finished, for it was a task of incredible 
difficulty. It was accomplished at last, and the mass 
floated astern by a stout rope, after which the windlass 
pawls clattered merrily, the "blankets*' rose in quick 
succession, and were cut off and lowered into the square 



48 TEE CBUISE OF tEE " CACEALOT.*' 

of the main hatch or "blubber-room.'* A short time 
sufficed to strip off the whole of the body-blubber, and 
when at last the tail was reached, the backbone was 
cut through, the huge mass of flesh floating away 
to feed the innumerable scavengers of the sea. No 
sooner was the last of the blubber lowered into the hold 
than the hatches were put on and the head hauled up 
alongside. Both tackles were secured to it and all 
hands took to the windlass levers. This was a small 
cow whale of about thirty barrels, that is, yielding that 
amount of oil, so it was just possible to lift the entire 
head on board ; but as it weighed as much as three full- 
grown elephants, it was indeed a heavy lift for even our 
united forces, trying our tackle to the utmost. The 
weather was very fine, and the ship rolled but little; 
even then, the strain upon the mast was terrific, and 
right glad was I when at last the immense cube of fat, 
flesh, and bone was eased inboard and gently lowered 
on deck. 

As soon as it was secured the work of dividing it 
began. From the snout a triangular mass was cut, 
which was more than half pure spermaceti. This 
substance was contained in spongy cells held together 
by layers of dense white fibre, exceedingly tough and 
elastic, and called by the whalers ** white-horse." The 
whole mass, or "junk" as it is called, was hauled 
away to the ship's side and firmly lashed to the bulwarks 
for the time being, so that it might not " take charge " 
of the deck during the rest of the operations. 

The upper part of the head was now slit open 
lengthwise, disclosing an oblong cistern or " case " full 
of liquid spermaceti, clear as water. This was baled 
out with buckets into a tank, concreting as it cooled 



"DIRTY WORK FOB CLEAN MONST." 49 

into a wax-like substance, bland and tasiclesa. There 
being now nothing more remaining about the skull of 
any value, the lashings were loosed, and the first lee- 
ward roll sent the great mass plunging overboard with 
a mighty splash. It sank like a stone, eagerly folIowM 
by a few small sharks that were hovering near. 

As may be imagined, much oil was running about 
the deck, for so saturated was every part of the creature 
with it that it really gushed like water during the 
cutting-up process. None of it was allowed to run to 
waste, though, for the scupper-holes which drain the 
deck were all carefully plugged, and as soon as the 
**junk'* had been dissected all the oil was carefully 
** squeegeed " up and poured into the try-pots. 

Two men were now told off as '* blubber-room men/' 
whose duty it became to go below, and squeezing them- 
selves in as best they could between the greasy masses 
of fat, cut it up into ** horse-pieces" about eighteen 
inches long and six inches square. Doing this they 
became perfectly saturated with oil, as if they had taken 
a bath in a tank of it ; for as the vessel rolled it was 
impossible to maintain a footing, and every fall was 
upon blubber running with oil. A machine of wonderful 
construction had been erected on deck in a kind of 
shallow trough about six feet long by four feet wide and 
a foot deep. At some remote period of time it had no 
doubt been looked upon as a triumph of ingenuity, a 
patent mincing machine. Its action was somewhat like 
that of a chaff-cutter, except that the knife was not 
attached to the wheel, and only rose and fell, since it 
was not required to cut right through the ** horse- 
pieces" with which it was fed. It will be readily 
understood that in order to get the oil quickly out of 



60 TEE CRUISE OF THE ''CACHALOT.'' 

the blubber, it needs to be sb'ced as thin as possible, 
but for convenience in handling the refuse (which is the 
only fuel used) it is not chopped up in small pieces, but 
every ** horse-piece " is very deeply scored as it were, 
leaving a thin strip to hold the sHces together. This 
then was the order of work. Two harpooners attended 
the try-pots, replenishing them with minced blubber 
from the hopper at the port side, and baling out the 
sufficiently boiled oil into the great cooling tank on the 
starboard. One officer superintended the mincing, 
another exercised a general supervision over all. There 
was no man at the wheel and no look-out, for the vessel 
was ** hove-to " under two close-reefed topsails and fore- 
topmast-staysail, with the wheel lashed hard down. 
A look-out man was unnecessary, since we could not 
run anybody down, and if anybody ran us down, it 
would only be because all hands were asleep, for the 
glare of our try-works fire, to say nothing of the 
blazing cresset before mentioned, could have been seen 
for many miles. So we toiled watch and watch, six 
hours on and six off, the work never ceasing for an 
instant night or day. Though the work was hard and 
dirty, and the discomfort of being so continually wet 
through with oil great, there was only one thing 
dangerous about the whole business. That was the 
job of filling and shifting the huge casks of oil. Some 
of these were of enormous size, containing 350 gallons 
when full, and the work of moving them about the 
greasy deck of a rolling ship was attended with a terrible 
amount of risk. For only four men at most could 
get fair hold of a cask, and when she took it into her 
silly old hull to start rolling, just as we had got one 
half-way across the deck, with nothing to grip your 



''DIRTY WORK FOR CLEAN MONET:* 51 

feet, and the knowledge that one Btnmbling man would 
mean a sudden slide of the ton and a half weight, and 
a little heap of mangled corpses somewhere in the lee 
scuppers — well one always wanted to be very thankful 
when the lashings were safely passed. 

The whale being a small one, as before noted, 
the whole business was over within three days, and 
the decks scrubbed and re-scrubbed until they had quite 
regained their normal whiteness. The oil was poured 
by means of a funnel and long canvas hose into the 
casks stowed in the ground tier at the bottom of the 
ship, and the gear, all carefully cleaned and neatly 
** stopped up," stowed snugly away below again. 

This long and elaborate process is quite different 
from that followed on board the Arctic whaleships, whose 
voyages are of short duration, and who content themselves 
with merely cutting the blubber up small and bringing 
it home to have the oil expressed. But the awful putrid 
mass discharged from a Greenlander's hold is of very 
different quality and value, apart from the nature of 
the substance, to the clear and sweet oil, which after three 
years in cask is landed from a south-seaman as in- 
offensive in smell and flavour as the day it was shipped. 
No attempt is made to separate the oil and spermaceti 
beyond boiling the " head matter," as it is called, by 
itself first, and putting it into casks wbich are not filled 
up with the body oil. Spermaceti ejdsts in all the oil, 
especially that from the dorsal hump ; but it is left for 
the refiners ashore to extract and leave the oil quite free 
from any admixture of the wax-like substance, which 
causes it to become solid at temperatures considerably 
above the freezing-point. 

Uninteresting as the preceding description may be, 



62 TEE CBUISE OF THE ''CACHALOT.'" 

it is impossible to understand anything of the economy 
of a south-sea whaler without giving it, and I have felt 
it the more necessary because of the scanty notice given 
to it in the only two works published on the subject, both 
of them highly technical, and written for scientific 
purposes by medical men. Therefore I hope to be 
forgiven if I have tried the patience of my readers by 
any prolixity. 

It will not, of course, have escaped the reader s potice 
that I have not hitherto attempted to give any details 
concerning the structure of the whale just dealt with. 
The omission is intentional. During this, our first 
attempt at real whaling, my mind was far too disturbed 
by the novelty and danger of the position in which I 
found myself for the first time, for me to pay any 
intelligent attention to the party of the second part. 

But I may safely promise that from the workman's 
point of view, the habits, manners, and build of the 
whales shall be faithfully described as I saw them during 
my long acquaintance with them, earnestly hoping that 
if my story be not as technical or scientific as that of 
Drs. Bennett and Beale, it may be found fully as 
accurate and reliable; and perhaps the reader, being 
like myself a mere layman, so to speak, may be better 
able to appreciate description free from scientific formula 
and nine -jointed words. 

Two things I did notice on this occasion which I will 
briefly allude to before closing this chapter. One was 
the peculiar skin of the whale. It was a bluish-black, 
and as thin as gold-beater's skin. So thin, indeed, and 
tender, that it was easily scraped off with the finger- 
nail. Immediately beneath it, upon the surface of the 
blubber, was a layer or coating of what for want of a 



''DIRTY WORK FOR CLEAHf MONET." 63 

better simile I must call fine short fur, although unlike 
fur it had no roots or apparently any hold upon the 
blubber. Neither was it attached to the skin which 
covered it ; in fact, it seemed merely a sort of packing 
between the skin and the surface of the thick layer of 
solid fat which covered the whole area of the whale's 
body. The other matter which impressed me was the 
peculiarity of the teeth. For up till that time I had 
held, in common with most seamen, and landsmen, too, 
for that matter, the prevailing idea that a "whale'* 
lived by ** suction " (although I did not at all know 
what that meant), and that it was impossible for him 
to swallow a herring. Yet here was a mouth manifestly 
intended for greater things in the way of gastronomy 
than herrings ; nor did it require more than the most 
casual glances to satisfy one of so obvious a fact. 
Then the teeth were heroic in size, protruding some 
four or five inches from the gum, and solidly set more 
than that into its firm and compact substance. They 
were certainly not intended for mastication, being, where 
thickest, three inches apart, and tapering to a short 
point, curving slightly backwards. In this specimen, 
a female, and therefore small as I have said, there were 
twenty of them on each side, the last three or four near 
the gullet being barely visible above the gum. 

Another most convincing reason why no mastication 
could have been possible was that there were no teeth 
visible in the upper jaw. Opposed to each of the teeth 
was a socket where a tooth should apparently have been, 
and this was conclusive evidence of the soft and yielding 
nature of the great creature's food. But there were 
signs that at some period of the development of the 
whale it had possessed a double row of teeth, because 



(54 TEE CRUISE OF TEE **CACEALOT'' 

at the bottom of these upper sockets we found in a fe^ 
cases what seemed to be an abortive tooth, not one that 
was growing, because they had no roots, but a survival of 
teeth that had once been perfect and useful, but from dis- 
use, or lack of necessity for them, had gradually ceased to 
come to maturity. The interior of the mouth and throat 
was of a livid white, and the tongue was quite small for so 
large an animal. It was almost incapable of movement, 
being somewhat like a fowl's. Certainly it could not 
have been protruded even from the angle of the mouth, 
much less have extended along the parapet of that 
lower mandible, which reminded one of the beak of some 
mighty albatross or stork. 



( 55 ) 



CHAPTER Vn. 

OETTINO SOUTHWARD. 

Whether our recent experience had altered the captain's 
plans or not I do not know, but much to tbo dismay 
of the Portuguese portion of the crew, we did but sight, 
dimly and afar off, the outline of the Capo Verde Islands 
before our course was altered, and we bore away for the 
southward like any other outward-bounder. That is, 
as far as our course went ; but as to the speed, we still 
retained the leisurely tactics hitherto pursued, shorten- 
ing sail every night, and, if the weather was very fine, 
setting it all again at daybreak. 

The morose and sullen temper of the captain had 
been, if anything, made worse by recent events, and 
we were worked as hard as if the success of the voyage 
depended upon our ceaseless toil of scrubbing, scraping, 
and polishing. Discipline was indeed maintained at a 
high pitch of perfection, no man daring to look awry, 
much less complain of any hardship, however great. 
Even this humble submissiveness did not satisfy our 
tyrant, and at last his cruelty took a more active shape. 
One of the long Yankee farmers from Vermont, Abner 
Gushing by name, with the ingenuity which seems inbred 
in his 'cute countrymen, must needs trv his hand ai 



56 TEE CtttJtSt: OF TEE " CACEALOT:' 

making a villainous decoction which he called "beer," 
the principal ingredients in which were potatoes and 
molasses. Now potatoes formed no part of our dietary, 
so Abner set his wits to work to steal sufficient for his 
purpose, and succeeded so far that he obtained half a 
dozen. I have very little doubt that one of the Portu- 
guese in the forecastle conveyed the information aft for 
some reason best known to himself, any more than we 
white men all had that in a similar manner all our 
sayings and doings, however trivial, became at once 
known to the officers. However, the fact that the theft 
was discovered soon became painfully evident, for we 
had a visit from the afterguard in force one afternoon, 
and Abner with his brewage was haled to the quarter- 
deck. There, in the presence of all hands, he was 
arraigned, found guilty of stealing the ship's stores, and 
sentence passed upon him. By means of two small 
pieces of fishing line he was suspended by his thumbs 
in the weather rigging, in such a manner that when the 
ship was upright his toes touched the deck, but when 
she rolled his whole weight hung from his thumbs. 
This of itself one would have thought sufficient torture 
for almost any offence, but in addition to it he received 
two dozen lashes with an improvised cat-o'-nine-tails, 
laid on by the brawny arm of one of the harpooners. 
We were all compelled to witness this, and our feelings 
may be imagined. When, after what seemed a terribly 
long time to me (Heaven knows what it must have been 
to him ! ), he fainted, although no chicken I nearly fainted 
too, from conflicting emotions of sympathy and impotent 
rage. 

He was then released in leisurely fashion, and we 
were permitted to take him forward and revive him. As 



OETTTNG BOVTTTWATin. 87 

Boon as bo was able to stand on his feet, bo was called 
on deck again, and not allowed to go below till his watch 
was oyer. Mcanwbile Captain Slocum improved tbe 
occasion by giving ns a sbort harangue, tbe burden of 
which was that we had now seen a little of what any 
of us might expect if we played any ** dogs* tricks " on 
him. But you can get used to anything, I suppose ; so 
after the first shock of the atrocity was over, things 
went on again pretty much as usual. 

For the first and only time in my experience, wo 
sighted St. PauPs Rocks, a tiny group of jagged peaks 
protruding from the Atlantic nearly on tbe Equator. 
Stupendous mountains they must be, rising almost sheer 
for about four and a half miles from tbe ocean bed. 
Although they appear quite insignificant specks upon 
the vast expanse of water, one could not help thinking 
bow sublime their appearance would be were they visible 
from the plateau whence they spring. Their chief in- 
terest to us at tbe time arose from the fact that, when 
within about three miles of them, we were suddenly 
surrounded by a vast school of bonito. These fish, so- 
named by the Spaniards from their handsome appear- 
ance, are a species of mackerel, a branch of tbe Scorn- 
hridcB family, and attain a size of about two feet long 
and forty pounds weight, though their average dimen- 
sions are somewhat less than half that. They feed 
entirely upon flying-fish and the small leaping squid or 
cuttle-fish, but love to follow a ship, playing around 
her, if her pace be not too great, for days together. 
Their flesh resembles beef in appeai-ance, and they are 
warm-blooded ; but, from their habitat being mid-ocean, 
nothing is known with any certainty of their habits of 
breeding. 



58 TEE CBU18E OF TEE *'OACEAL0T.' 

The orthodox method of catching them on board ship 
is to cover a suitable hook with a piece of white rag a 
couple of inches long, and attach it to a stout line. The 
fisherman then takes his seat upon the jibboom end, 
having first, if he is prudent, secured a sack to the jib- 
stay in such a manner that its mouth gapes wide. Then 
he unrolls his line, and as the ship forges ahead the line, 
blowing out, describes a curve, at the end of which the 
bait, dipping to the water occasionally, roughly repre- 
sents R flying-fish. Of course, the faster the ship is going, 
the better the chance of deceiving the fish, since they 
have less time to study the appearance of the bait. It 
is really an exaggerated and clumsy form of fly-fishing, 
and, as with that elegant pastime, much is due to the 
skill of the fisherman. 

As the bait leaps from crest to crest of the wavelets 
thrust aside by the advancing ship, a fish more adven- 
turous or hungrier than the rest will leap at it, and in 
an instant there is a dead, dangling weight of from ten 
to forty pounds hanging at the end of your line thirty 
feet below. You haul frantically, for he may be poorly 
hooked, and you cannot play him. In a minute or two, 
if all goes well, he is plunged in the sack, and safe. But 
woe unto you if you have allowed the jeers of your ship- 
mates to dissuade you from taking a sack out with you. 

The struggles of these fish are marvellous, and a man 
runs great risk of being shaken off the boom, unless his 
legs are firmly locked in between the guys. Such is the 
tremendous vibration that a twenty-pound bonito makes 
in a man's grip, that it can be felt in the cabin at the 
other end of the ship ; and I have often come in trium- 
phantly with one, having lost all feeling in my arms 
and a goodly portion of skin off my breast and side^ 



GETTING SOUTHWARD, 69 

where I have embraced the prize in a griin determina. 
tion to hold him at all hazards, besides being literally 
drenched with his blood. 

Like all our fishing operations on board the CacJialot, 
this day's fishing was conducted on scientific principles, 
and resulted in twenty-five fine fish being shipped, 
which were a welcome addition to our scanty allowance. 
Happily for us, they would not take the salt in that 
sultry latitude soon enough to preserve them ; for, when 
they can be salted, they become like brine itself, and 
are quite unfit for food. Yet we should have been 
compelled to eat salt bonito, or go without meat 
altogether, if it had been possible to cure them. 

We were now fairly in the " horse latitudes," and, 
much to our relief, the rain came down in occasional 
deluges, permitting us to wash well and often. I sup- 
pose the rains of the tropics have been often enough 
described to need no meagre attempts of mine to convey 
an idea of them; yet I have often wished I could 
make home-keeping friends understand how far short 
what they often speak of as a "tropical shower" falls 
of the genuine article. The nearest I can get to it is 
the idea of an ocean suspended overhead, out of which 
the bottom occasionally falls. Nothing is visible or 
audible but the glare and roar of falling water, and a 
ship's deck, despite the many outlets, is full enough to 
swim about in in a very few minutes. At such times the 
whole celestial machinery of rain-making may be seen 
in full working order. Five or six mighty water-spouts 
in various stages of development were often within 
easy distance of us ; once, indeed, we watched the birth, 
growth, and death of one less than a mile away. First, 
a big, black cloud, even among tlitit great assemblage 



60 TEE CRUISE OF THE "CACHALOTS 

of nimhi, began to belly downward, until the centre 
of it tapered into a stem, and the whole mass looked 
like a vast, irregularly-moulded funnel. Lower and lower 
it reached, as if feeling for a soil in which to grow, until 
the sea beneath was agitated sympathetically, rising at 
last in a sort of pointed mound to meet the descending 
column. Our nearness enabled us to see that both 
descending and rising parts were whirling violently in 
obedience to some invisible force ; and when they had 
joined each other, although the spiral motion did not 
appear to continue, the upward rush of the water 
through what was now a long elastic tube was very 
plainly to be seen. The cloud overhead grew blacker 
and bigger, until its gloom was terrible. The pipe, or 
stem, got thinner gradually, until it became a mere 
thread ; nor, although watching closely, could we deter- 
mine when the connection between sea and sky ceased 
—one couid not call it severed. The point rising from 
the sea settled almost immediately amidst a small 
commotion, as of a whirlpool. The tail depending from 
the cloud slowly shortened, and the mighty reservoir 
lost the vast bulge which had hung so threateningly 
above. Just before the final disappearance of the last 
portion of the tube, a fragment of cloud appeared to 
break off. It fell near enough to show by its thunder- 
ing roar what a body of water it must have been, 
although it looked like a saturated piece of dirty rag 
in its descent. 

For whole days and nights together we sometimes lay 
almost "as idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean," 
when the deep blue dome above matched the deep blue 
plain below, and never a fleck of white appeared in sky 
or sea. This perfect stop to our progress troubled none, 



GETTINO SOUTHWARD, 61 

although it aggravates a merchant skipper terribly. As 
for the objects of our search, they had apparently all 
migrated other- whither, for never a sign of them did we 
see. Finbacks, a species of rorqual, were always pretty 
numerous, and, as if they knew how useless they were 
to us, came and played around like exaggerated porpoises. 
Quo in particular kept us company for several days and 
nights. We knew him well, from a great triangular soar 
on his right side, near the dorsal fin. Sometimes he 
would remain motionless by the side of the ship, a few 
feet below the surface, as distinctly in our sight as a 
gold-fish in a parlour globe ; or he would go under the 
keel, and gently chafe his broad back to and fro along it, 
making queer tremors run through the vessel, as if she 
were scraping over a reef. Whether from superstition 
or not I cannot tell, but I never saw any creature in- 
jured out of pure wantonness, except sharks, while I was 
on board the Cachalot, Of course, injuries to men do 
not count. Had that finback attempted to play about a 
passenger ship in such a fashion, all the loungers on 
board would have been popping at him with their revolvers 
and rifles without ever a thought of compunction , yet 
here, in a vessel whose errand was whale-fishing, a whale 
enjoyed perfect immunity. It was very puzzHng. At 
last my curiosity became too great to bear any longer, 
and I sought my friend Mistah Jones at what I con- 
sidered a favourable opportunity. I found him very 
gracious and communicative, and I got such a lecture 
on the natural history of the cetacea as I have never 
forgotten — the outcome of a quarter-century*8 experience 
of them, and afterwards proved by me to be correct in 
every detail, which latter is a great deal more than 
can be said of any written natural history that ever I 



62 TEE CRUISE OF TEE "CACEALOT." 

came across. But I will not go into that now. Lean- 
ing over the rail, with the great rorqual laying per- 
fectly still a few feet below, I was told to mark how 
slender and elegant were his proportions. "Clipper- 
built," my Mentor termed him. He was full seventy feet 
long, but his greatest diameter would not reach ten feet. 
His snout was long and pointed, while both top and 
bottom of his head were nearly flat. "When he came up 
to breathe, which he did out of the top of his head, he 
showed us that, instead of teeth, he had a narrow fringe 
of baleen (whalebone) all around his upper jaws, although 
** I kaint see whyfor, kase he lib on all sort er fish, s'long'a 
dey ain't too big. I serpose w*en he kaint get nary fish 
he do de same ez de * bowhead ' — go er siftin eout dem 
little tings we calls whale-feed wiv dat ar 'rangement he 
carry in his mouf." " But why don't we harpoon him ? " 
I asked. Goliath turned on me a pitying look, as he 
replied, ** Sonny, ef yew wuz ter go en stick iron inter 
dat ar fish, yew'd fink de hole bottom fell eout kerblunk. 
Wen I uz young 'n foolish, a finback range *longside me 
one day, off de Seychelles. I just done gone miss' a spam 
whale, and I was kiender mad, — muss ha' bin. Wall, I 
let him hab it blam 'tween de ribs^ If I lib ten tousan 
year, ain't gwine ter fergit dat ar. Wa'nt no time ter 
spit, tell ye ; eberybody hang ober de side ob de boat. 
Wiz — poof! — de line all gone. Clar to glory, I neber see 
it go. Ef it hab ketch anywhar, nobody eber see iis too. 
Fus, I fought I jump ober de side — neber face de skipper 
any mo'. But he uz er good ole man, en he only say, 
* Don't be sech blame jackass any more.' En I don't." 
From which lucid narration I gathered that the finback 
had himself to thank for his immunity from pursuit. 
"'Sides," persisted Goliath," wa' yew gwine do wiv' him ? 



GETTING SOUTHWARD. 63 

Ain*t six inch uv blubber anywhere 'bout his long ngly 
carkiss ; en dat dirty lill* rag *er whalebone he got in 
his mouf, 'taint worf fifty cents. En mor*n dat, we pick 
np a dead one when I uz in do ole Rainbow — done choke 
hisself, I spec, en we cut him in. He stink fit ter pison 
de debbil, en, after all, we get eighteen bar'l ob dirty oil 
out ob him. Wa'nt worf de clean sparm scrap we use 
ter bile him. G* 'way ! ** Which emphatic adjuration, 
addressed not to me, but to the unconscious monster 
below, closed the lesson for the time. 

The calm still persisted, and, as usual, fish began 
to abound, especially flying-fish. At times, disturbed 
by some hungry bonito or dolphin, a shoal of them 
would rise — a great, wave of silver — and skim through 
the air, rising and falling for perhaps a couple oC 
hundred yards before they again took to the water ; or 
a solitary one of larger size than usual would suddenly 
soar into the air, a heavy splash behind him showing 
by how few inches he had missed the jaws of his 
pursuer. Away he would go in a long, long curve, and, 
meeting the ship in his flight, would rise in the air, 
turn oil at right angles to his former direction, and spin 
away again, the whir of his wing-fins distinctly visible 
as well as audible. At last he would incline to the 
water, but just as he was about to enter it there would 
be an eddy — the enemy was there waiting — and he would 
rise twenty, thirty feet, almost perpendicularly, and dart 
away fully a hundred yards on a fresh course before the 
drying of his wing membranes compelled him to drop. 
In the face of such a sight as this, which is of everyday 
occurrence in these latitudes, how trivial and mis- 
leading the statements made by the natural history 
books seem. 



64 TEE CRUISE OF THE "CACHALOT.'* 

They tell their readers that the Exocetus VoUtans 
" does not fly ; does not flutter its wings ; can only take 
a prolonged leap," and so on. The misfortune attendant 
upon such books seems, to an unlearned sailor like 
myself, to be that, although posing as authorities, most 
of the authors are content to take their facts not simply 
at second-hand, but even unto twenty-second-hand. So 
the old fables get repeated, and brought up to date, and 
it is nobody's business to take the trouble to correct 
them. 

The weather continued calm and clear, and as the 
flying-fish were about in such immense numbers, I 
ventured to suggest to Goliath that we might have a 
try for some of them. I verily believe he thought I 
was mad. He stared at me for a minute, and then, 
with an indescribable intonation, said, " How de ol' 
Satan yew fink yew gwain ter get 'm, hey? Ef yew 
spects ter fool dis chile wiv any dem lime-juice yarns, 
'bout lanterns 'n boats at night-time, yew's 'way off." 
I guessed he meant the fable current among English 
sailors, that if you hoist a sail on a calm night in a 
boat where flying-fish abound, and hang a lantern in 
the middle of it, the fish will fly in shoals at the lantern, 
strike against the sail, and fall in heaps in the boat. 
It may be true, but I never spoke to anybody who has 
seen it done, nor is it the method practised in the only 
place in the world where flying-fishing is followed for a 
living. So I told Mr. Jones that if we had some circular 
nets of small mesh made and stretched on wooden 
hoops, I was sure we should be able to catch some. He 
caught at the idea, and mentioned it to the mate, who 
readily gave his permission to use a boat. A couple 
of *' Guineamen " (a very large kind of flying-fish, 



GETTING SOUTHWARD. 65 

having four ^ings) flew on board that night, aa if 
purposely to provide us with the necessary bait. 

Next morning, about four bells, the sea being like 
a mirror, unruffled by a breath of wind, we lowered and 
paddled off from the ship about a mile. When far 
enough away, we commenced operations by iqueesing 
in the water some pieces of fish that had been kept for 
the purpose until they were rather high-flavoured. The 
exuding oil from this fish spread a thin film for some 
distance around the boat, through which, as throagh 
a sheet of glass, we could see a long way down. 
Minute specks of the bait sank slowly through the 
limpid blue, but for at least an hour there was no sign 
of life. I was beginning to fear that I should be called 
to account for misleading all hands, when, to my un- 
bounded delight, an immense shoal of flying-fish came 
swimming round the boat, eagerly picking up the savoury 
morsels. We grasped our nets, and, leaning over the 
gunwale, placed them silently in the water, pressing 
them downward and in towards the boat at the same 
time. Our success was great and immediate. We 
lifted the wanderers by scores, while I whispered im- 
ploringly, ** Be careful not to scare them ; don't make 
a sound." All hands entered into the spirit of the 
thing with great eagerness. As for Mistah Jones, his 
delight was almost more than he could bear. Suddenly 
one of the men, in lifting his net, slipped on the smooth 
Dottom of the boat, jolting one of the oars. There was 
a gleam of light below as the school turned — they had 
all disappeared instanter. We had been so busy that 
we had not noticed the dimensions of our catch ; but 
now, to our great joy, we found that we had at least 
eight hundred fish nearly as large as herrings. We at 

F 



66 TEE CEVISE OF TEE " CACEALOT." 

once returned to the ship, having been absent only two 
hours, during which we had caught sufficient to provide 
all hands with three good meals. Not one of the crew 
had ever seen or heard of such fishing before, so my 
pride and pleasure may be imagined. A little learning 
may be a dangerous thing at times, but it certainly is 
often handy to have about you. The habit of taking 
notice and remembering has often been the means of 
saving many lives in suddenly-met situations of emer- 
gency, at sea perhaps more than anywhere else, and 
nothing can be more useful to a sailor than the practice 
of keeping his weather-eye open. 

In Barbadoes there is established the only regular 
flying-fishery in the world, and in just the manner I 
have described, except that the boats are considerably 
larger, is the whole town supplied with delicious fish 
at so trifling a cost as to make it a staple food among 
all classes. 

But I find that I am letting this chapter run to an 
unconscionable length, and it does not appear as if we 
were getting at the southward very fast either. Truth 
to tell, our progress was mighty slow ; but we gradually 
crept across the belt of calms, and a week after our 
never-to-be-forgotten haul of flying-fish we got the first 
of the south-east trades, and went away south at a 
good pace — for us. We made the Island of Trinidada 
with its strange conical-topped pillar, the Ninepin Kock, 
but did not make a caU, as the skipper was beginning 
to get fidgety at not seeing any whales, and anxious to 
get down to where he felt reasonably certain of falling 
in with them. Life had been very monotonous of late, 
and much as we dreaded still the prospect of whale- 
fighting (by " we," of course, I mean the chaps forward). 



GETTING SOUTHWAllD. 67 

it began to lose much of its terror for us, so greatly did 
we long for a little change. Keeping, as we did, out of 
the ordinary track of ships, we hardly ever saw a sail. 
We had no recreations ; fun was out of the question ; 
and had it not been for a Bible, a copy of Shakespeare, 
and a couple of cheap copies of "David Copperfield" and 
** Bleak House," all of which were mine, we should have 
had no books. 



68 TEE CRUISE OF THE "CACHALOT. 



CHAPTER VIIL 

abner's whale. 

In a previous chapter I have referred to the fact of a 
bounty being offered to whoever should first sight a 
useful whale, payable only in the event of the prize being 
secured by the ship. In consequence of our ill-success, 
and to stimulate the watchfulness of all, that bounty 
was now increased from ten pounds of tobacco to twenty, 
or fifteen dollars, whichever the winner chose to have. 
Most of us whites regarded this as quite out of the 
question for us, whose untrained vision was as the 
naked eye to a telescope when pitted against the eagle- 
like sight of the Portuguese. Nevertheless, we all did 
our little best, and I know, for one, that when I descended 
from my lofty perch, after a two hours' vigil, my eyes 
often ached and burned for an hour afterwards from 
the intensity of my gaze across the shining waste of 
waters. 

Judge, then, of the surprise of everybody, when one 
forenoon watch, three days after we had lost sight of 
Trinidada, a most extraordinary sound was heard from 
the fore crow's-nest. I was, at the time, up at the main, 
in company with Louis, the mate*« harpooner, and we 
stared across to see whatever was the matter. The 



ABNERa WBALK. 69 

watchman was unfortunate Abner Gushing, whose triml 
offence had been so severely punished a short time 
before, and he was gesticulating and howling like a 
madman. Up from below came the deep growl of the 
skipper, ** Foremast head, there, what d'ye say?" 
*'B-b-b-blow, s-s-sir," stammered Abner; " a big whale 
right in the way of the sun, sir." ** See anythin*, 
Louey ? " roared the skipper to my companion, just as 
we had both " raised " the spout almost in the glare 
cast by the sun. ** Yessir," answered Louis ; " but I 
kaint make him eout yet, sir." ** All right ; keep yer 
eye on him, and lemme know sharp ; " and away he 
went aft for his glasses. 

The course was slightly altered, so that we headed 
direct for the whale, and in less than a minute after- 
wards we saw distinctly the great black column of a 
sperm whale's head rise well above the sea, scattering 
a circuit of foam before it, and emitting a bushy, tufted 
burst of vapour into the clear air. " There she white- 
waters ! Ah bl-o-o-o-o-o-w, blow, blow ! " sang Louis ; 
and then., in another tone, ** Sperm whale, sir ; big, 'lone 
fish, headin* 'beout east-by-nothe." " All right. *Way 
down from aloft," answered the skipper, who was already 
half-way up the main-rigging; and like squirrels we 
slipped out of our hoops and down the backstays, 
passing the skipper like a flash as he toiled upwards, 
bellowing orders as he went. Short as our journey 
down had been, when we arrived on deck we found all 
ready for a start. But as the whale was at least seven 
miles away, and we had a fair wind for him, there was 
no hurry to lower, so we all stood at attention by our 
respective boats, waiting for the signal. I found, to my 
surprise, that, although I was conscious of a much more 



70 THE CRUISE OF THE "CACHALOT:' 

rapid heart-beat than usual, I was not half so scared 
as I expected to be — that the excitement was rather 
pleasant than otherwise. There were a few traces of 
funk about some of the others still ; but as for Abner, 
he was fairly transformed; I hardly knew the man. 
He was one of Goliath's boat's crew, and the big darkey 
was quite proud of him. His eyes sparkled, and he 
chuckled and smiled constantly, as one who is conscious 
of having done a grand stroke of business, not only for 
himself, but for all hands. " Lower away boats ! " came 
pealing down from the skipper's lofty perch, succeeded 
instantly by the rattle of the patent blocks as the falls 
flew through them, while the four beautiful craft took 
the water with an almost simultaneous splash. The 
ship-keepers had trimmed the yards to the wind and 
hauled up the courses, so that simply putting the helm 
down deadened our way, and allowed the boats to run 
clear without danger of fouling one another. To shove 
off and hoist sail was the work of a few moments, and 
with a fine working breeze away we went. As before, 
our boat, being the chief's, had the post of honour ; but 
there was now only one whale, and I rather wondered 
why we had all left the ship. According to expec- 
tations, down he went when we were within a couple of 
miles of him, but quietly and with great dignity, ele- 
vating his tail perpendicularly in the air, and sinking 
slowly from our view. Again I found Mr. Count 
talkative. 

" Thet whale '11 stay down fifty minutes, I guess," said 
he, " fer he's every gill ov a hundred en twenty bar'l ; and 
don't yew fergit it." *' Do the big whales give much 
more trouble than the little ones ?" I asked, seeing him 
thus chatty. '' Wall, it's jest ez it happens, boy— just ez 



ABNER'S WHALE. 71 

it happens. I've seen a fifty-bar'l bull make the purtiest 
fight I ever beam tell ov — a fight thet lasted twenty 
hours, stove three boats, 'n killed two men. Then, again, 
I've seen a hundred 'n fifty bar'l whale lay 'n take his 
grooel 'thout hardly wunkin 'n eyelid — never moved ten 
fathom from fust iron till fin eout. So yew may say, 
boy, that they're like peepul — got thair individooal 
pekyewlyarities, an' thars no countin' on *em for sartin 
nary time." I was in great hopes of getting some useful 
information while his mood lasted ; but it was over, and 
silence reigned. Nor did I dare to ask any more ques- 
tions ; ho looked so stem and fierce. The scene was very 
striking. Overhead, a bright blue sky just fringed with 
fleecy little clouds ; beneath, a deep blue sea with innu- 
merable tiny wavelets dancing and glittering in the blaze 
of the sun ; but all swayed in one direction by a great, 
solemn swell that slowly rolled from east to west, like the 
measured breathing of some world-supporting monster. 
Four little craft in a group, with twenty-four men in them, 
silently waiting for battle with one of the mightiest of 
God's creatures — one that was indeed a terrible foe to 
encounter were he but wise enough to make the best use 
of his opportunities. Against him we came with our 
puny weapons, of which I could not help reminding 
myself that " he laugheth at the shaking of a spear.** 
But when the man's brain was thrown into the scale 
against the instinct of the brute, the contest looked less 
imequal than at first sight, for there is the secret of 
success. My musings were very suddenly interrupted. 
Whether we had overrun our distance, or the whale, 
who was not " making a passage," but feeding, had 
changed his course, I do not know ; but, anyhow, he broke 
water close ahead, coming straight for our boat. His 



72 TEE CRUISE OF THE "CACHALOT:' 

great black head, like the broad bow of a dumb barge, 
driving the waves before it, loomed high and menacing 
to* me, for I was not forbidden to look ahead now. But 
coolly, as if coming alongside the ship, the mate bent to 
the big steer-oar, and swung the boat off at right angles 
to her course, bringing her back again with another broad 
sheer as the whale passed foaming. This manoeuvre 
brought us side by side with him before he had time to 
realize that we were there. Up till that instant he had 
evidently not seen us, and his surprise was correspond- 
ingly great. To see Louis raise his harpoon high above 
his head, and with a hoarse grunt of satisfaction plunge' 
it into the black, shining mass beside him up to the 
hitches, was indeed a sight to be remembered. Quick 
as thought he snatched up a second harpoon, and as the 
whale rolled from us it flew from his hands, burying 
itself like the former one, but lower down the body. The 
great impetus we had when we reached the whale carried 
us a long way past him, out of all danger from his 
struggles. No hindrance was experienced from the line 
by which we were connected with the whale, for it was 
loosely coiled in a space for the purpose in the boat's 
bow to the extent of two hundred feet, and this was cast 
overboard by the harpooner as soon as the fish was fast^ 
He made a fearful to-do over it, rolling completely over 
several times backward and forward, at the same time 
smiting the sea with his mighty tail, making an almost 
deafening noise and pother. But we were comfortable 
enough, while we unshipped the mast and made ready 
for action, being sufficiently far away from him to 
escape the full effect of his gambols. It was impossible 
to avoid reflecting, however, upon what would happen if^ 
in our unprepared and so far helpless state, he were> 



ABNER8 WHALE. 73 

instead of simply tumbling about in an aimlesB, blind 
sort of fury, to rush at the boat and try to destroy it. 
Very few indeed would survive such an attack, nnless 
the tactics were radically altered. No doubt they would 
be, for practices grow up in consequence of the circum- 
stances with which they have to deal. 

After the usual time spent in furious attempts to free 
himself from our annoyance, he betook himself below, 
leaving us to await his return, and hasten it as much as 
possible by keeping a severe strain upon the line. Our 
efforts in this direction, however, did not seem to haye 
any effect upon him at all. Flake after flake ran out of 
the tubs, until we were compelled to hand the end of our 
line to the second mate to splice his own on to. Still it 
slipped away, and at last it was handed to the third 
mate, whose two tubs met the same fate. It was now 
Mistah Jones' turn to " bend on," which he did with 
many chuckles as of a man who was the last resource 
of the unfortunate. But his face grew longer and longer 
as the never-resting line continued to disappear. Soon 
he signalled us that he was nearly out of line, and two 
or three minutes after he bent on his "drogue" (a 
square piece of plank with a rope tail spliced into its 
centre, and considered to hinder a whale's progress at 
least as much as four boats), and let go the end. We 
had each bent on our drogues in the same way, when 
we passed our ends to one another. So now our friend 
was getting along somewhere below with 7200 feet of 
li-inch rope, and weight additional equal to the drag of 
sixteen 30-feet boats. 

'Of course we knew that, unless he were dead and 
sinking, he could not possibly remain much longer 
beneath the surface. The exhibition of endurance we 



74 THE CRUISE OF THE ''CACHALOT:^ 

had just been favoured with was a very unusual one, I 
was told, it being a rare thing for a cachalot to take out 
two boats' lines before returning to the surface to spout. 
Therefore, we separated as widely as was thought 
necessary, in order to be near him on his arrival. It was, 
as might be imagined, some time before we saw the light 
of his countenance ; but when we did, we had no diffi- 
culty in getting alongside of him again. My friend 
Goliath, much to my delight, got there first, and suc- 
ceeded in picking up the bight of the line. But having 
done so, his chance of distinguishing himself was gone. 
Hampered by the immense quantity of sunken line 
which was attached to the whale, he could do nothing, 
and soon received orders to cut the bight of the line and 
pass the whale's end to us. He had hardly obeyed, with 
a very bad grace, when the whale started off to wind- 
ward with us at a tremendous rate. The other boats, 
having no line, could do nothing to help, so away we 
went alone, with barely a hundred fathoms of line, in 
case he should take it into his head to sound again. 
The speed at which he went made it appear as if a gale 
of wind was blowing, and we flew along the sea surface, 
leaping from crest to crest of the waves with an inces- 
sant succession of cracks like pistol-shots. The flying 
spray drenched us and prevented us from seeing him, 
but I fully realized that it was nothing to what we 
should have to put up with if the wind freshened much. 
One hand was kept baling the water out which came so 
freely over the bows, but all the rest hauled with all 
their might upon the line, hoping to get a little closer 
to the flying monster. Inch by inch we gained on 
him, encouraged by the hoarse objurgations of the mate, 
whose excitement was intense. After what seemed a 




THE WHALE STARTED OrF TO WINDWARD WITH U« AT A TRKHKirDOUS BATE. 



ABNEB'S WEALE. 75 

terribly long chase, we found his speed slackening, and 
we redoubled our efforts. Now we were close upon him ; 
now, in obedience to the steersman, the boat sheered out 
a bit, and we were abreast of his labouring flukes ; now 
the mate hurls his quivering lance with such hearty 
good-will that every inch of its slender shaft disappears 
within the huge body. " Lay off ! Off with her, Louey ! '* 
screamed the mate ; and she gave a wide sheer away 
from the whale, not a second too soon. Up flew that 
awful tail, descending with a crash upon the water not 
two feet from us. " Out oars ! Pull, two ! starn, three ! ' 
shouted the mate ; and as we obeyed our foe turned to 
fight. Then might one see how courage and skill were 
such mighty factors in the apparently unequal contest. 
The whale's great length made it no easy job for him to 
turn, while our boat, with two oars a-side, and the great 
leverage at the stern supplied by the nineteen-foot steer- 
oar, circled, backed, and darted ahead like a living thing 
animated by the mind of our commander. When the 
leviathan settled, we gave a wide berth to his probable 
place of ascent ; when he rushed at us, we dodged him ; 
when he paused, if only momentarily, in we flew, and 
got home a fearful thrust of the deadly lance. 

All fear was forgotten now — I panted, thirsted for his 
life. Once, indeed, in a sort of frenzy, when for an 
instant we lay side by side with him, I drew my sheath- 
knife, and plunged it repeatedly into the blubber, as if I 
were assisting in his destruction. Suddenly the mate 
gave a howl: ** Starn all — starn all ! oh, starn ! " and the 
oars bent like canes as we obeyed. There was an upheaval 
of the sea just ahead ; then slowly, majestically, the vast 
body of our foe rose into the air. Up, up it went, while 
my heart stood still, nntil the whole of that immense 



76 TEE CRUISE OF TEE "CACEALOT^ 

creature hung on high, apparently motionless, and then 
fell — a hundred tons of solid flesh — back into the sea. On 
either side of that mountainous mass the waters rose in 
shining towers of snowy foam, which fell in their turn, 
whirling and eddying around us as we tossed and fell 
like a chip in a whirlpool. Blinded by the flying spray, 
baling for very life to free the boat from the water with 
which she was nearly full, it was some minutes before I 
was able to decide whether we were still uninjured or not. 
Then I saw, at a little distance, the whale lying quietly. 
As I looked he spouted, and the vapour was red with 
his blood. " Starn all ! " again cried our chief, and we 
retreated to a considerable distance. The old warrior's 
practised eye had detected the coming climax of our 
efforts, the dying agony or "flurry" of the great 
mammal. Turning upon his side, he began to move in 
a circular direction, slowly at first, then faster and 
faster, until he was rushing round at tremendous speed, 
his great head raised quite out of water at times, clashing 
his enormous jaws. Torrents of blood poured from his 
spout-hole, accompanied by hoarse bellowings, as of some 
gigantic bull, but really caused by the labouring breath 
trying to pass through the clogged air passages. The 
utmost caution and rapidity of manipulation of the boat 
was necessary to avoid his maddened rush, but this 
gigantic energy was short-lived. In a few minutes he 
subsided slowly in death, his mighty body reclined on 
one side, the fin uppermost waving Hmply as he rolled 
to the swell, while the small waves broke gently over 
the carcass in a low, monotonous surf, intensifying the 
profound silence that had succeeded the tumult of our 
conflict with the late monarch of the deep. Hardly had 
the flurry ceased, when we hauled up alongside of our 



ABNEB'S WHALE. 11 

hard-won prize, in order to secure a line to him in a 
better manner than at present for hauling him to the 
ship. This was effected by cutting a hole through the 
tough, gristly substance of the flukes with the short 
"boat-spade," carried for the purpose. The end of the 
line, cut off from the faithful harpoon that had held 
it so long, was then passed through this hole and made 
fast. This done, it was '* Smoke-oh ! " The luxury of 
that rest and refreshment was something to be grateful 
for, coming, as it did, in such complete contrast to our 
recent violent exertions. 

The ship was some three or four miles off to leeward, 
80 we reckoned she would take at least an hour and a 
half to work up to us. Meanwhile, our part of the 
performance being over, and well over, we thoroughly 
enjoyed ourselves, lazily rocking on the gentle swell by 
the side of a catch worth at least £800. During the 
conflict I had not noticed what now claimed attention — 
several great masses of white, semi-transparent-looking 
substance floating about, of huge size and irregular 
shape. But one of these curious lumps came floating 
by as we lay, tugged at by several fish, and I immediately 
asked the mate if he could tell me what it was and 
where it came from. He told me that, when dying, the 
cachalot always ejected the contents of his stomach, 
which were invariably composed of such masses as we 
saw before us ; that he believed the stuff to be portions 
of big cuttle-fish, bitten off by the whale for the purpose 
of swallowing, but he wasn't sure. Anyhow, I could haul 
this piece alongside now, if I liked, and see. Secretly 
wondering at the indifference shown by this officer of 
forty years' whaling experience to such a wonderful fact 
as appeared to be here presented, I thanked him, and. 



78 TEE CRUISE OF TEE ''CACHALOT: 

sticking the boat-hook into the lump, drew it alongside. 
It was at once evident that it was a massive fragment 
of cuttle-fish — tentacle or arm — as thick as a stout 
man's body, and with six or seven sucking-discs or 
acetabula on it. These were about as large as a saucer, 
and on their inner edge were thickly set with hooks or 
claws all round the rim, sharp as needles, and almost 
the shape and size of a tiger's. 

To what manner of awful monster this portion of 
limb belonged, I could only faintly imagine; but of 
course I remembered, as any sailor would, that from 
my earliest sea-going I had been told that the cuttle- 
fish was the biggest in the sea, although I never even 
began to think it might be true until now. I asked 
the mate if he had ever seen such creatures as this 
piece belonged to alive and kicking. He answered, 
languidly, **Wall, I guess so; but I don't take any 
stock in fish, 'cept for provisions er ile — en thet's a 
fact." It will be readily believed that I vividly recalled 
this conversation when, many years after, I read an 
account by the Prince of Monaco of his discovery of a 
gigantic squid, to which his naturalist gave the name of 
Lepidoteuthis Grimaldiif Truly the indifference and 
apathy manifested by whalers generally to everything 
except commercial matters is wonderful — hardly to be 
credited. However, this was a mighty revelation to me. 
For the first time, it was possible to understand that, 
contrary to the usual notion of a whale's being unable to 
swallow a herring, here was a kind of whale that could 
swallow — well, a block four or five feet square apparently; 
who lived upon creatures as large as himself, if one 
might judge of their bulk by the sample to hand ; but 
being unable, from only possessing teeth in one jaw, to 



ABNEB'8 WHALE, 79 

masticate his food, was compelled to tear it in sizable 
pieces, bolt it whole, and leave his commissariat depart- 
ment to do the rest. 

While thus ruminating, the mate and Louis began a 
desultory conversation concerning what they termed 
" ambergrease." I had never even heard the word 
before, although I had a notion that Milton, in ** Paradise 
Regained," describing the Satanic banquet, had spoken 
of something being " gris-amber steamed." They could 
by no means agree as to what this mysterious substance 
was, how it was produced, or under what conditions. 
They knew that it was sometimes found floating near 
the dead body of a sperm whale — the mate, in fact, stated 
that he had taken it once from the rectum of a cachalot 
— and they were certain that it was of great value — from 
one to three guineas per ounce. When I got to know 
more of the natural history of the sperm whale, and 
had studied the literature of the subject, I was no longer 
surprised at their want of agreement, since the learned 
doctors who have written upon the subject do not seem 
to have come to definite conclusions either. 

By some it is supposed to be the product of a 
diseased condition of the creature ; others consider that 
it is merely the excreta, which, normally fluid, has by 
some means become concreted. It is nearly always 
found with cuttle-fish beaks imbedded in its substance, 
showing that these indigestible portions of the sperm 
whale's food have in some manner become mixed with 
it during its formation in the bowel. Chemists have ana- 
lyzed it with scanty results. Its great value is due to its 
property of intensifying the power of perfumes, although, 
strange to say, it has little or no odour of its own, a faint 
trace of musk being perhaps detectable in some cases. 



80 TEE CBUISE OF THE "CACHALOT." 

The Turks are said to use it for a truly Turkish purpose, 
which need not be explained here, while the Moors are 
credited with a taste for it in their cookery. About 
both these latter statements there is considerable doubt ; 
I only give them for what they are worth, without 
committing myself to any definite belief in them. 

The ship now neared us fast, and as soon as she 
rounded-to, we left the whale and pulled towards her, 
paying out line as we went. Arriving alongside, the 
line was handed on board, and in a short time the 
prize was hauled to the gangway. We met with a very 
different reception this time. The skipper's grim face 
actually looked almost pleasant as he contemplated the 
colossal proportions of the latest addition to our stock. 
He was indeed a fine catch, being at least seventy feet 
long, and in splendid condition. As soon as he was 
secured alongside in the orthodox fashion, all hands 
were sent to dinner, with an intimation to look sharp 
over it. Judging from our slight previous experience, 
there was some heavy labour before us, for this whale 
was nearly four times as large as the one caught 
off the Cape Verds. And it was so. Verily those 
officers toiled like Titans to get that tremendous head 
off, even the skipper taking a hand. In spite of their 
efforts, it was dark before the heavy job was done. As 
we were in no danger of bad weather, the head was 
dropped astern by a hawser until morning, when it would 
be safer to dissect it. All that night we worked inces- 
santly, ready to drop with fatigue, but not daring to suggest 
the possibility of such a thing. Several of the officers 
and harpooners were allowed a few hours off, as their 
special duty of dealing with the head at daylight would 
he BO arduous as to need all their energies. When day 



ABNER'S WHALE, 81 

da^vned we were allowed a short rest, while the work of 
cutting up the head was undertaken by the rested men 
afi At seven bells (7.30) it was **turn to" all hands 
again. The "junk" was hooked on to both cutting 
tackles, and the windlass manned by everybody who 
could get hold. Slowly the enormous mass rose, canting 
the ship heavily as it came, while every stick and rope 
aloft complained of the great strain upon them. When 
at last it was safely shipped, and the tackles cast off, the 
size of this small portion of a full-grown cachalot's body 
could be realized, not before. 

It was hauled from the gangway by tackles, and 
securely lashed to the rail running round beneath the 
top of the bulwarks for that purpose — the " lash-rail " 
— where the top of it towered up as high as the third 
ratline of the main-rigging. Then there was another 
spell, while the " case " was separated from the skull. 
This was too large to get on board, so it was lifted half- 
way out of water by the tackles, one hooked on each side ; 
then they were made fast, and a spar rigged across them 
at a good height above the top of the case. A small 
block was lashed to this spar, through which a line was 
rove. A long, narrow bucket was attached to one end 
of this rope ; the other end on deck was attended by two 
men. One unfortunate beggar was perched aloft on the 
above-mentioned spar, where his position, like the main- 
yard of Marryatt's verbose carpenter was " precarious 
and not at all permanent." He was provided with a 
pole, with which he pushed the bucket down through a 
hole cut in the upper end of the " case," whence it was 
drawn out by the chaps on deck full of spermaceti. It 
was a weary, unsatisfactory process, wasting a great deal 
of the substance being baled out ; but no other way was 



82 THE CRUISE OF THE "CACHALOTr 

apparently possible. The grease blew about, drenching 
most of us engaged in an altogether unpleasant fashion, 
while, to mend matters, the old barky began to roll and 
tumble about in an aimless, drunken sort of way, the result 
of a new cross swell rolling up from the south-westward. 
As the stuff was gained, it was poured into large tanks 
in the blubber-room, the quantity being too great to be 
held by the try-pots at once. Twenty-five barrels of 
this clear, wax-like substance were baled from that case ; 
and when at last it was lowered a little, and cut away 
from its supports, it was impossible to help thinking 
that much was still remaining within which we, with 
such rude means, were unable to save. Then came the 
task of cutting up the junk. Layer after layer, eight 
to ten inches thick, was sliced off, cut into suitable 
pieces, and passed into the tanks. So full was the 
matter of spermaceti that one could take a piece as large 
as one's head in the hands, and squeeze it like a sponge, 
expressing the spermaceti in showers, until nothing 
remained but a tiny ball of fibre. All this soft, pulpy 
mass was held together by walls of exceedingly tough, 
gristly integument (" white horse "), which was as 
difficult to cut as gutta-percha, and, but for the peculiar 
texture, not at all unlike it. 

When we had finished separating the junk, there was 
nearly a foot of oil on deck in the waist, and uproarious 
was the laughter when some hapless individual, losing 
his balance, slid across the deck and sat down with a 
loud splash in the deepest part of the accumulation. 

The lower jaw of this whale measured exactly nine- 
teen feet in length from the opening of the mouth, or, 
say the last of the teeth, to the point, and carried twenty- 
eight teeth on each side. For the time, it was hauled 



A B NEB* a WHALE, 83 

aft out of the way, and secured to the lash-rail. The 
subsequent proceedings were just the same as before 
described, only more so. For a whole week our labours 
continued, and when they were over we had stowed 
below a hundred and forty-six barrels of mingled oil and 
spermaceti, or fourteen and a half tuns. 

It was really a pleasant sight to see Abner receiving, 
as if being invested with an order of merit, the twenty 
pounds of tobacco to which he was entitled. Poor fellow ! 
he felt as if at last he were going to be thought a little 
of, and treated a little better. He brought his bounty 
forrard, and shared it out as far as it would go with the 
greatest delight and good nature possible. Whatever he 
might have been thought of aft, certainly, for the time, 
he was a very important personage forrard ; even the 
Portuguese, who were inclined to be jealous of what they 
considered an infringement of their rights, were mollified 
by the generosity shown. 

After every sign of the operations, had been cleared 
away, the jaw was brought out, and the teeth extracted 
with a small tackle. They were set solidly into a hard 
white gum, which had to be cut away all around them 
before they would come out. When cleaned of the gum, 
they were headed up in a small barrel of brine. The 
great jaw-pans were sawn off, and placed at the disposal 
of anybody who wanted pieces of bone for ** scrimshaw," 
or carved work. This is a very favourite pastime on 
Doard whalers, though, in ships such as ours, the crew 
have little opportunity for doing anything, hardly any 
leisure during daylight being allowed. But our carpenter 
was a famous workman at *' scrimshaw," and he started 
half a dozen walking-sticks forthwith. A favourite 
design is to carve the bone into the similitude of a rope, 



84 TEE CRUISE OF TEE "CACEALOT.*' 

with ** worming" of smaller line along its lays. A 
handle is carved out of a whale's tooth, and insets of 
baleen, silver, cocoa-tree, or ebony, give variety and 
finish. The tools used are of the roughest. Some old 
files, softened in the fire, and filed into grooves something 
like saw-teeth, are most used; but old knives, sail-needles, 
and chisels are pressed into service. The work turned 
out would, in many cases, take a very high place in an 
exhibition of turnery, though never a lathe was near it. 
Of course, a long time is taken over it, especially the 
polishing, which is done with oil and whiting, if it can 
be got — powdered pumice if it cannot. I once had an 
elaborate pastry-cutter carved out of six whale's teeth, 
which I purchased for a pound of tobacco from a seaman 
of the Coral whaler, and afterwards sold in Dunedin, 
New Zealand, for £2 10s., the purchaser being decidedly 
of opinion that he had a bargain. 



( 85 ) 



CHAPTER IX. 

OUB FIB8T CALIilNG-PLACB. 

Perhaps it may hastily be assumed, from the large space 
already devoted to fishing operations of various kinds, 
that the subject will not bear much more dealing with, 
if my story is to avoid being monotonous. But I beg 
to assure you, dear reader, that while of course I 
have most to say in connection with the business of 
the voyage, nothing is farther from my plan than 
to neglect the very interesting portion of our cruise 
which relates to visiting strange, out-of-the-way corners 
of the world. If — which I earnestly deprecate — the 
description hitherto given of sperm whale-fishing and 
its adjuncts be found not so interesting as could be 
wished, I cry you mercy. I have been induced to give 
more space to it because it has been systematically 
avoided in the works upon whale-fishing before 
mentioned, which, as I have said, were not intended 
for popular reading. True, neither may my humble 
tome become popular either ; but, if it does not, no one 
will be so disappointed as the author. 

We had made but little progress during the week of 
oil manufacture, very little attention being paid to the 
aails while that work was about ; but, as the south-east 



86 TEE CBUISJS OF TEE '' CACEALOT^ 

trades blew steadily, we did not remain stationary alto- 
gether. So that the following week saw us on the south 
side of the tropic of Capricorn, the south-east trade done, 
and the dirty weather and variable squalls, which nearly 
always precede the "westerlies," making our lives a 
burden to us. Here, however, we were better off than in 
an ordinary merchantman, where doldrums are enough 
to drive you mad. The one object being to get along, it 
is incessant "puUy-hauly," setting and taking in sail, 
in order, on the one hand, to lose no time, and, on the 
other, to lose no sails. Now, with us, whenever the 
weather was doubtful or squally-looking, we shortened 
sail, and kept it fast till better weather came along, 
being quite careless whether we made one mile a day or 
one hundred. But just because nobody took any notice 
of our progress as the days passed, we were occasionally 
startled to find how far we had really got. This was 
certainly the case with all of us forward, even to me 
who had some experience, so well used had I now become 
to the leisurely way of getting along. To the laziest of 
ships, however, there comes occasionally a time when 
the bustling, hurrying wind will take no denial, and 
you've got to " git up an' git," as the Yanks put it. Such 
a time succeeded our " batterfanging " about, after losing 
the trades. We got hold of a westerly wind that, com- 
mencing quietly, gently, steadily, taking two or three 
days before it gathered force and volume, strengthened 
at last into a stern, settled gale that would brook no 
denial, to face which would have been misery indeed. 
To vessels bound east it came as a boon and blessing, 
for it would be a crawler that could not reel off her two 
hundred and fifty miles a day before the push of such a 
breeze. Even the Cachalot did her one hundred and 



OUR FIRST CALLING-PLACE, ' 87 

fifty, pounding and bruising the ill-used sea in her 
path, and spreading before her broad bows a far-reaching 
area of snowy foam, while her wake was as w^ide as any 
two ordinary ships ought to make. Five or six times a 
day the flying East India or colonial-bound English ships, 
under every stitch of square sail, would appear as tiny 
specks on the horizon astern, come up with us, pass like 
a flash, and fade away ahead, going at least two knots 
to our one. I could not help feeling a bit home-sick 
and tired of my present surroundings, in spite of their 
interest, when I saw those beautiful ocean-flyers devour- 
ing the distance which lay before them, and reflected 
that in little more than one month most of them would 
be discharging in Melbourne, Sydney, Calcutta, or some 
other equally distant port, while we should probably 
be dodging about in our present latitude a little farther: 
east. 

After a few days of our present furious rate of speedy 
I came on deck one morning, and instantly recognized' 
an old acquaintance. Pwight ahead, looking nearer than 
I had ever seen it before, rose the towering mass of 
Tristan d'Acunha, while farther away, but still visible, 
lay Nightingale and Inaccessible Islands. Their aspect 
was familiar, for I had sighted them on nearly every 
voyage I had made round the Cape, but I had never 
seen them so near as this. There was a good deal of 
excitement among us, and no wonder. Such a break ia 
the monotony of our lives as we were about to have was 
enough to turn our heads. Afterwards, we learned to 
view these matters in a more philosophic light ; but now, 
being new and galled by the yoke, it was a different thing. 
Near as the island seemed, it was six hours before we 
got near enough to distinguish objects on shore. I have 



88 THE CRUISE OF THE '* CACEALOTr 

seen the top of Tristan peeping through a cloud nearly 
a hundred miles away, for its height is tremendous. St. 
Helena looks a towering, scowling mass when you 
approach it closely ; but Tristan d'Acunha is far more 
imposing, its savage-looking cliffs seeming to sternly 
forbid the venturesome voyager any nearer familiarity 
with their frowning fastnesses. Long before we came 
within working distance of the settlement, we were^ con- 
tinually passing broad patches of kelp {fucus gigantea), 
whose great leaves and cable-laid stems made quite reef- 
like breaks in the heaving waste of restless sea. Very 
different indeed were these patches of marine growth 
from the elegant wreaths of the Gulf- weed with which 
parts of the North Atlantic are so thickly covered. Their 
colour was deep brown, almost black in some cases, and 
the size of many of the leaves amazing, being four to 
five feet long, by a foot wide, with stalks as thick as one's 
arm. They have their origin around these storm-beaten 
rocks, which lie scattered thinly over the immense area 
of the Southern Ocean, whence they are torn, in masses 
like those we saw, by every gale, and sent wandering 
round the world. 

When we arrived within about three miles of the 
landing-place, we saw a boat coming off, so we imme- 
diately hove-to and awaited her arrival. There was no 
question of anchoring ; indeed, there seldom is in these 
vessels, unless they are going to make a long stay, for 
they are past masters in the art of " standing off and 
on.'* The boat came alongside — a big, substantially- 
built craft of the whale-boat type, but twice the size — 
manned by ten sturdy- looking fellows, as unkempt and 
wild-looking as any pirates. They were evidently put 
to great straits for clothes, many curious makeshifts 



OUR FIRST CALLING-PLACE. 89 

being noticeable in their rig, while it was so patched 
with every conceivable kind of material that it was 
impossible to say which was the original or *' standing 
part.*' They brought with them potatoes, onions, a few 
stunted cabbages, some fowls, and a couple of good-sized 
pigs, at the sight of which good things our eyes glistened 
and our mouths watered. Alas ! none of the cargo of 
that boat ever reached our hungry stomachs. We were 
not surprised, having anticipated that every bit of pro- 
vision would be monopolized by our masters ; but of course 
we had no means of altering such a state of things. 

The visitors had the same tale to tell that seems 
universal — bad trade, hard times, nothing doing. How 
very familiar it seemed, to be sure. Nevertheless, it 
could not be denied that their sole means of communi- 
cation with the outer world, as well as market for their 
goods, the calling whale-ships, were getting fewer and 
fewer every year ; so that their outlook was not, it must 
be confessed, particularly bright. But their wants are 
few, beyond such as they can themselves supply. 
Groceries and clothes, the latter especially, as the winters 
are very severe, are almost the only needs they require 
to be supplied with from without. They spoke of the 
" Cape "as if it were only across the way, the distance 
separating them from that wonderful place being over 
thirteen hundred miles in reality. Very occasionally a 
schooner from Capetown does visit them; but, as the 
seals are almost exterminated, there is less and less 
inducement to make the voyage. 

Like almost all the southern islets, this group has 
been in its time the scene of a wonderfully productive 
seal-fishery. It used to be customary for whaling and 
sealing vessels to land a portion of their crews, and leave 



90 TEE. CRUISE OF TEE " CACEALOT," 

them to accumulate a store of seal-skins and oil, while 
the ships cruised the surrounding seas for whales, which 
were exceedingly numerous, both "right" and sperm 
varieties. In those days there was no monotony of 
existence in these islands, ships were continually coming 
and going, and the islanders prospered exceedingly. 
When they increased beyond the capacity of the islands 
to entertain them, a portion migrated to the Cape, while 
many of the men took service in the whale-ships, for 
which they were eminently suited. 

They are, as might be expected, a hybrid lot, the 
women all mulattoes, but intensely English in their 
views and loyalty. Since the visit of H.M.S. Galatea^ 
in August, 1867, with the Duke of Edinburgh on board, 
this sentiment had been intensified, and the little 
collection of thatched cottages, nameless till then, was 
called Edinburgh, in honour of the illustrious voyager. 
They breed cattle, a few sheep, and pigs, although the 
sheep thrive but indifferently for some reason or another. 
Poultry they have in large numbers, so that, could they 
command a market, they would do very well. 

The steep cliffs, rising from the sea for nearly a 
thousand feet, often keep their vicinity in absolute calm, 
although a heavy gale may be raging on the other side 
of the island, and it would be highly dangerous for any 
navigator not accustomed to such a neighbourhood to 
get too near them. The immense rollers setting in- 
shore, and the absence of wind combined, would soon 
carry a vessel up against the beetling crags, and letting 
go an anchor would not be of the slightest use, since the 
bottom, being of massive boulders, affords no holding 
ground at all. All round the island the kelp grows 
thickly, so thickly indeed as to make a boat's progress 



OVR FIRST CALLJNO-PLACE. 91 

through it difficult. This, however, is very useful in one 
way here, as we found. Wanting more supplies, which 
were to he had cheap, we lowered a couple of boats, and 
went ashore after them. On approaching the black, 
pebbly beach which formed the only landing-place, it 
appeared as if getting ashore would be a task of no 
ordinary danger and difficulty. The swell seemed to 
culminate as we neared the beach, lifting the boats at 
one moment high in air, and at the next lowering them 
into a green valley, from whence nothing could be seen 
but the surrounding watery summits. Suddenly we 
entered the belt of kelp, which extended for perhaps a 
quarter of a mile seaward, and, lo ! a transformation 
indeed. Those loose, waving fronds of flexible weed, 
though swayed hither and thither by every ripple, were 
able to arrest the devastating rush of the gigantic swell, 
80 that the task of landing, which had looked so terrible, 
was one of the easiest. Once in among the kelp, although 
we could hardly use the oars, the water was quite smooth 
and tranquil. The islanders collected on the beach, and 
guided us to the best spot for landing, the huge boulders, 
heaped in many places, being ugly impediments to a 
boat. 

We were as warmly welcomed as if we had been old 
friends, and hospitable attentions were showered upon 
us from every side. The people were noticeably well- 
behaved, and, although there was something Crusoe-like 
in their way of living, their manners and conversation 
were distinctly good. A rude plenty was evident, there 
being no lack of good food — fish, fowl, and vegetables. 
The grassy plateau on which the village stands is a sort 
of shelf jutting out from the mountain-side, the moun- 
tain being really the whole island. Steep roads were 



92 THE CRUISE OF TEE "CACHALOT,'* 

hewn out of the solid rock, leading, as we were told, to the 
cultivated terraces above. These reached an elevation 
of about a thousand feet. Above all towered the great, 
dominating peak, the summit lost in the clouds eight 
or nine thousand feet above. The rock-hewn roads and 
cultivated land certainly gave the settlement an old- 
established appearance, which was not surprising, seeing 
that it has|_been inhabited for more than a hundred 
years. I shall always bear a grateful recollection of the 
place, because my host gave me what I had long been a 
stranger to — a good, old-fashioned English dinner of 
roast beef and baked potatoes. He apologized for having 
no plum-pudding to crown the feast. ** But, you see," 
he said, ** we kaint grow no corn hyar, and we'm clean run 
out ov flour ; hev ter make out on taters 's best we kin." 
I sincerely sympathized with him on the lack of bread- 
stuff among them, and wondered no longer at the avidity 
with which they had munched our flinty biscuits on first 
coming aboard. His wife, a buxom, motherly woman of 
about fifty, of dark, olive complexion, but good features, 
was kindness itself; and their three youngest children, 
who were at home, could not, in spite of repeated warn- 
ings and threats, keep their eyes off me, as if I had been 
some strange animal dropped from the moon. I felt very 
unwilling to leave them so soon, but time was pressing, 
the stores we had come for were all ready to ship, and I 
had to tear myself away from these kindly entertainers. 
I declare, it seemed like parting with old friends ; yet our 
acquaintance might have been measured by minutes, so 
brief it had been. The mate had purchased a fine 
bullock, which had been slaughtered and cut up for us 
with great celerity, four or five dozen fowls (alive), four 
or five sacks of potatoes, eggs, etc., so that we were 



OUB FIBST CALLING-PLACE. 93 

heavily laden for the return journey to the ship. My 
friend had kindly given me a large piece of splendid 
cheese, for which I was unahlo to make him any return, 
being simply clad in a shirt and pair of trousers, neither 
of which necessary garments could be spared. 

With hearty cheers from the whole population, we 
shoved off and ploughed through the kelp seaward again. 
When we got clear of it, we found the swell heavier than 
when we had come, and a rough journey back to the ship 
was the result. But, to such boatmen as we were, that 
was a trifle hardly worth mentioning, and after an hour's 
hard pull we got alongside again, and transhipped our 
precious cargo. The weather being threatening, we at 
once hauled off the land and out to sea, as night was 
falling and we did not wish to be in so dangerous a 
vicinity any longer than could be helped in stormy 
weather. Altogether, a most enjoyable day, and one 
that I have ever since had a pleasant recollection of. 

By daybreak next morning the islands were out of 
sight, for the wind had risen to a gale, which, although 
we carried little sail, drove us along before it some seven 
or eight knots an hour. 

Two days afterwards we caught another whale of 
medium size, making us fifty-four barrels of oil. As 
nothing out of the ordinary course marked the capture, 
ii is unnecessary to do more than allude to it in passing, 
except to note that the honours were all with Goliath. 
He happened to be close to the whale when it rose, and 
immediately got fast. So dexterous and swift were his 
actions that before any of the other boats could " chip 
in '* he had his fish " fin out," the whole affair from start 
to finish only occupying a couple of hours. We were 
now in the chosen haunts of the great albatross, Cape 



94 THE CRUISE OF THE ''CACHALOT.'* 

pigeons, and Cape hens, but never in my life had 1 
imagined such a concourse of them as now gathered 
around us. When we lowered there might have been 
perhaps a couple of dozen birds in sight, but no sooner 
was the whale dead than from out of the great void 
around they began to drift towards us. Before we had 
got him fast alongside, the numbers of that feathered 
host were incalculable. They surrounded us until the 
sea surface was like a plain of snow, and their discordant 
cries vere deafening. With the exception of one peculiar- 
lookmg bird, which has received from whalemen the in- 
elegant name of ** stinker," none of them attempted to 
alight upon the body of the dead monster. This bird, 
however, somewhat like a small albatross, but of dirty- 
grey colour, and with a peculiar excrescence on his beak, 
boldly took his precarious place upon the carcass, and 
at once began to dig into the blubber. He did not seem 
to make much impression, but he certainly tried hard. 

It was dark before we got our prize secured by the 
fluke-chain, so that we could not commence operations 
before morning. That night it blew hard, and we got an 
idea of the strain these vessels are sometimes subjected 
to. Sometimes the ship rolled one way and the whale 
another, being divided by a big sea, the wrench at the 
fluke-chain, as the two masses fell apart down different 
hollows, making the vessel quiver from truck to keelson 
as if she was being torn asunder. Then we would come 
together again with a crash and a shock that almost 
threw everybody out of their bunks. Many an earnest 
prayer did I breathe that the chain would prove staunch, 
for what sort of a job it would be to go after that whale 
during the night, should he break loose, I could only 
faintly imagine. But all our gear was of the very best; 



OUR FIRST CALLINQ-PLACE. 95 

no thieving ship-chandler had any hand in supplying 
our outfit with shoddy rope and faulty chain, only made 
to sell, and ready at the first call made upon it to carry 
away and destroy half a dozen valuable lives. There 
was one coil of rope on board which the skipper had 
bought for cordage on the previous voyage from a 
homeward-bound English ship, and it was the butt of 
all the officers' scurrilous remarks about Britishers and 
their gear. It was never used but for rope-yarns, being 
cut up in lengths, and untwisted for the ignominious 
purpose of tying things up — " hardly good enough for 
that," was the verdict upon it. 

Tired as we all were, very little sleep came to us that 
night — we were barely seasoned yet to the exigencies 
of a whaler's life — but afterwards I believe nothing short 
of dismasting or running the ship ashore would wake us, 
once we got to sleep. In the morning we commenced 
operations in a howling gale of wind, which placed the 
lives of the officers on the " cutting in " stage in great 
danger. The wonderful seaworthy qualities of our old 
ship shone brilliantly now. When an ordinary modem- 
built sailing-ship would have been making such weather 
of it as not only to drown anybody about the deck, but 
making it impossible to keep your footing anywhere 
without holding on, we were enabled to cut in this 
whale. True, the work was terribly exhausting and 
decidedly dangerous, but it was not impossible, for it was 
done. By great care and constant attention, the whole 
work of cutting in and trying out was got through with- 
out a single accident ; but had another whale turned up 
to continue the trying time, I am fully persuaded that 
some of us would have gone under from sheer fatigue. 
For there was no mercy shown. All that I have ever 



96 TEE CRUISE OF THE "CACHALOT** 

read of "putting the slaves through for all they were 
worth *' on the plantations was fully realized here, and 
our worthy skipper must have been a lineal descendant 
of the doughty Simon Legree. 

The men were afraid to go on to the sick-list. Nothing 
short of total inability to continue would have prevented 
them from working, such was the terror with which 
that man had inspired us all. It may be said that we 
were a pack of cowards, who, without the courage to 
demand better treatment, deserved all we got. While 
admitting that such a conclusion is quite a natural one 
at which to arrive, I must deny its truth. There were 
men in that forecastle as good citizens and as brave 
fellows as you would wish to meet — men who in their own 
sphere would have commanded and obtained respect. 
But under the painful and abnormal circumstances in 
which they found themselves — beaten and driven like 
dogs while in the throes of sea-sickness, half starved and 
hopeless, their spirit had been so broken, and they were 
so kept down to that sad level by the display of force, 
aided by deadly weapons aft, that no other condition 
could be expected for them but that of broken-hearted 
slaves. My own case was many degrees better than 
that of the other whites, as I have before noted; but 
I was perfectly well aware that the slightest attempt 
on my part to show that I resented our common treat- 
ment would meet with the most brutal repression, and, 
in addition, I might look for a dreadful time of it for 
the rest of the voyage. 

The memory of that week of misery is so strong upon 
me even now that my hand trembles almost to prevent- 
ing me from writing about it. Weak and feeble do the 
words seem as I look at them, making me wish for the 



OUR FIRST CALLINO-PLACK 97 

fire and force of Carlyle or Macaulay to portray our 
unnecessary sufferings. 

Like all other earthly ills, however, they came to an 
end, at least for a time, and I was delighted to note that 
we were getting to the northward again. In making 
the outward passage round the Cape, it is necessary to 
go well south, in order to avoid the great westerly set 
of the Agulhas current, which for ever sweeps steadily 
round the southern extremity of the African continent 
at an average rate of three or four miles an hour. 
To homeward-hound ships this is a great hoon. No 
matter what the weather may be — a stark calm or a 
gale of wind right on end in your teeth — that vast, 
silent river in the sea steadily bears you on at the same 
rate in the direction of home. It is perfectly true 
that with a gale blowing across the set of this great 
current, one of the very ugliest combinations of broken 
waves is raised ; but who cares for that, when he knows 
that, as long as the ship holds together, some seventy or 
eighty miles per day nearer home must be placed to her 
credit ? In like manner, it is of the deepest comfort to 
know that, storm or calm, fair or foul, the current of 
time, imhasting, unresting, bears us on to the goal 
that we shall surely reach — the haven of unbroken rest. 

Not the least of the minor troubles on board the 
Cachalot was the uncertainty of our destination ; we 
never knew where we were going. It may seem a 
small point, but it is really not so unimportant as a 
landsman might imagine. On an ordinary passage, 
certain well-known signs are as easily read by the sea- 
man as if the ship's position were given out to him every 
day. Every alteration of the course signifies some point 
of the journey reached, some well-known track entered 

H 



98 TEE CRUISE OF TEE " CACEALOT.^ 

upon, and every landfall made becomes a new departure 
from whence to base one's calculations, which, rough as 
they are, rarely err more than a few days. 

Say, for instance, you are bound for Calcutta. The 
first of the north-east trades will give a fair idea of your 
latitude being about the edge of the tropics somewhere, 
or say from 20° to 25° N., whether you have sighted 
any of the islands or not. Then away you go before 
the wind down towards the Equator, the approach to 
which is notified by the loss of the trade and the dirty, 
changeable weather of the *' doldrums." That weary bit 
of work over, along come the south-east trades, making 
you brace '* sharp up," and sometimes driving you un- 
comfortably near the Brazilian coast. Presently more 
" doldrums," with a good deal more wind in them than 
in the "wariables" of the line latitude. The brave 
** westerly" will come along by-and-by and release you, 
and, with a staggering press of sail carried to the reliable 
gale, away you go for the long stretch of a hundred 
degrees or so eastward. You will very likely sight 
Tristan d'Acunha or Gough Island ; but, if not, the course 
will keep you fairly well informed of your longitude, 
since most ships make more or less of a great circle 
track. Instead of steering due East for the whole distance, 
they make for some southerly latitude by running along 
the arc of a great circle, then run due east for a thousand 
miles or so before gradually working north again. These 
alterations in the courses tell the foremast hand nearly 
all he wants to know, slight as they are. You will most 
probably sight Amsterdam Island or St. Paul's in about 
77° E. ; but whether you do or not, the big change made 
in the course, to say nothing of the difference in the 
weather and temperature, say loudly that your long 



OUB FIRST OALLINQ'PLACE. 99 

easterly run is over, and you are bound to the northward 
again. Soon the south-east trades will take you gently 
in hand, and waft you pleasurably upward to the line 
again, unless you should be so unfortunate as to meet 
one of the devastating meteors known as '* cyclones '* 
in its gyration across the Indian Ocean. After losing 
the trade, which signals your approach to the line once 
more, your guides fluctuate muchly with the time of 
year. But it may be broadly put that the change of 
the monsoon in the Bay of Bengal is beastliness un- 
adulterated, and the south-west monsoon itself, though 
a fair wind for getting to your destination, is worse, 
if possible. Still, having got that far, you are able to 
judge pretty nearly when, in the ordinary course of 
events, you will arrive at Saugor, and get a tug for the 
rest of the journey. 

But on this strange voyage I was quite as much in 
the dark concerning our approximate position as any 
of the chaps who had never seen salt water before they 
viewed it from the bad eminence of the CachaloVt deck. 
Of course, it was evident that we were bound eastward, 
but whether to the Indian seas or to the South Pacific, 
none knew but the skipper, and perhaps the mate. I say 
** perhaps " advisedly. In any well-regulated merchant 
ship there is an invariable routine of observations 
performed by both captain and chief officer, except in 
very big vessels, where the second mate is appointed navi- 
gating officer. The two men work out their reckoning 
independently of each other, and compare the result, so 
that an excellent check upon the accuracy of the positions 
found is thereby afforded. Here, however, there might 
not have been, as far as appearances went, a navigator 
in the ship except the captain, if it be not a misuse of 



100 THE CRUISE OF THE "CACEALOTr 

terms to call him a navigator. If the test be ability to 
take a ship round the world, poking into every un- 
described, out-of-the-way corner you can think of, and 
return home again without damage to the ship of any 
kind except by the unavoidable perils of the sea, then 
doubtless he was a navigator, and a ripe, good one. But 
anything cruder than the " rule-of-thumb " way in which 
he found his positions, or more out of date than his 
** hog-yoke," or quadrant, I have never seen. I suppose 
we carried a chronometer, though I never saw it or heard 
the cry of ** stop," which usually accompanies a.m. or 
p.m. " sights " taken for longitude. He used sometimes 
to make a deliberate sort of haste below after taking a 
sight, when he may have been looking at a chronometer 
perhaps. "What I do know about his procedure is, that 
he always used a very rough method of equal altitudes, 
which would make a mathematician stare and gasp; 
that his nautical almanac was a ten-cent one published 
by some speculative optician in New York ; that he never 
worked up a ** dead reckoning; " and that the extreme 
limit of time that he took to work out his observations 
was ten minutes. In fact, all our operations in seaman- 
ship or navigation were run on the same happy-go-lucky 
principle. If it was required to " tack " ship, there 
was no formal parade and preparation for the man- 
oeuvre, not even as much as would be made in a Goole 
billy-boy. Without any previous intimation, the helm 
would be put down, and round she would come, the 
yards being trimmed by whoever happened to be nearest 
to the braces. The old tub seemed to like it that way, 
for she never missed stays or exhibited any of that un- 
willingness to do what she was required that is such 
a frequent characteristic of merchantmen. Even getting 



OUIi FIRST CALLINQ-PLACE, 101 

under way or coming to an anchor was unattended by 
any of the fuss and bother from which those important 
evolutions ordinarily appear inseparable. 

To my great relief, we saw no more whales of the 
kind we were after during our passage round the Capo. 
The weather we were having was splendid for making 
a passage, but to be dodging about among those immense 
rollers, or towed athwart them by a wounded whale, in 
80 small a craft as one of our whale-boats, did not have 
any attractions for me. There was little doubt in any 
of our minds that, if whales were seen, off we must go 
while daylight lasted, let the weather be what it might. 
So when one morning I went to the wheel, to find the 
course N.N.E. instead of K by N., it may be taken for 
granted that the change was a considerable relief to me. 
It was now manifest that we were bound up into the 
Indian Ocean, although of course I knew nothing of the 
position of the districts where whales were to be looked 
for. Gradually we crept northward, the weather im- 
proving every day as we left the " roaring forties " astern. 
While thus making northing we had several fine catches 
of porpoises, and saw many rorquals, but sperm whales 
appeared to have left the locality. However, the "old 
man" evidently knew what he was about, as we were not 
now cruising, but making a direct passage for Bome 
definite place. 

At last we sighted land, which, from the course which 
we bad been steering, might have been somewhere on 
the east coast of Africa, but for the fact that it was right 
ahead, while we were pointing at the time about N.N.W. 
By-and-by I came to the conclusion that it must be the 
southern extremity of Madagascar, Cape St. Mary, and, 
by dint of the closest attention to every word I heard 



102 THE CRUISE OF TEE "CACBALOT.** 

uttered while at the wheel by the officers, found that my 
surmise was correct. We skirted this point pretty closely, 
heading to the westward, and, when well clear of it, bore 
up to the northward again for the Mozambique Channel. 
Another surprise. The very idea of whaling in the 
Mozambique Channel seemed too ridiculous to mention ; 
yet here we were, guided by a commander who, whatever 
his faults, was certainly most keen in his attention to 
business, and the unlikeliest man imaginable to take 
the ship anywhere unless he anticipated a profitable 
return for his visit. 



( 103 ) 



CHAPTER X. 

▲ VISIT TO SOME STRANGE PLACES. 

Wb had now entered upon what promised to be the 
most interesting part of our voyage. As a commercial 
speculation, I have to admit that the voyage was to me 
a matter of absolute indifference. Never, from the first 
week of my being on board, had I cherished any illusions 
upon that score, for it was most forcibly impressed 
on my mind that, whatever might be the measure of 
success attending our operations, no one of the crew 
forward could hope to benefit by it. The share of profits 
was so small, and the time taken to earn it so long, 
such a number of clothes were worn out and destroyed 
by us, only to be replaced from the ship's slop-chest at 
high prices, that I had quite resigned myself to the 
prospect of leaving the vessel in debt, whenever that 
desirable event might happen. Since, therefore, I had 
never made it a practice to repine at the inevitable, and 
make myself unhappy by the contemplation of mis- 
fortunes I was powerless to prevent, I tried to interest 
myself as far as was possible in gathering information, 
although at that time I had no idea, beyond a general 
thirst for knowledge, that what I was now learning 
would ever be of any service to me. Yet I had been 



104 TUE CBUISE OF THE ''CACHALOTS 

dull indeed not to have seen how unique were the oppor- 
tunities I was now enjoying for observation of some of 
the least known and understood aspects of the ocean 
world and its wonderful inhabitants, to say nothing of 
visits to places unvisited, except by such free lances as 
we were, and about which so little is really known. 

The weather of the Mozambique Channel was fairly 
good, although subject to electric storms of the most 
terrible aspect, but perfectly harmless. On the second 
evening after rounding Cape St. Mary, we were proceed- 
ing, as usual, under very scanty sail, rather enjoying the 
mild, balmy air, scent-laden, from Madagascar. The 
moon was shining in tropical splendour, paling the 
lustre of the attendant stars, and making the glorious 
Milky Way but a faint shadow of its usual resplendent 
road. Gradually from the westward there arose a murky 
mass of cloud, fringed at its upper edges with curious 
tinted tufts of violet, orange, and crimson. These 
colours were not brilliant, but plainly visible against 
the deep blue sky. Slowly and solemnly the intruding 
gloom overspread the sweet splendour of the shining 
sky, creeping like a death-shadow over a dear face, and 
making the most talkative feel strangely quiet and ill at 
ease. As the pall of thick darkness blotted out the cool 
light, it seemed to descend until at last we were com- 
pletely over-canopied by a dome of velvety black, seem- 
ingly low enough to touch the mast-heads. A belated 
sea-bird's shrill scream but emphasized the deep silence 
which lent itself befittingly to the solemnity of nature. 
Presently thin suggestions of light, variously tinted, 
began to thread the inky mass. These grew brighter and 
more vivid, until at last, in fantastic contortions, they 
appeared to rend the swart concave asunder, revealing 



A VISIT TO SOME STRANGE PLACES. 105 

through the jagged clefts a lurid waste of the most 
intensely glowing fire. The coming and going of these 
amazing brightnesses, combined with the Egyptian dark 
between, was completely blinding. So loaded was the 
still air with electricity that from every point aloft pale 
flames streamed upward, giving the ship the appearance 
of a huge candelabrum with innumerable branches. 
One of the hands, who had been ordered aloft on some 
errand of securing a loose end, presented a curious sight. 
He was bareheaded, and from his hair the all-pervading 
fluid arose, lighting up his features, which were ghastly 
beyond description. When he lifted his hand, each 
separate finger became at once an additional point from 
which light streamed. There was no thunder, but a 
low hissing and a crackling which did not amount to 
noise, although distinctly audible to all. Sensations 
most unpleasant of pricking and general irritation 
were felt by every one, according to their degree of 
susceptibility. 

After about an hour of this state of things, a low 
moaning of thunder was heard, immediately followed 
by a few drops of rain large as dollars. The mutter- 
ings and grumblings increased until, with one peal that 
made the ship tremble as though she had just struck a 
rock at full speed, down came the rain. The windows 
of heaven were opened, and no man might stand against 
the steaming flood that descended by thousands of tons 
per minute. How long it continued, I cannot say; 
probably, in its utmost fierceness, not more than half an 
hour. Then it slowly abated, clearing away as it did 
BO the accumulation of gloom overhead, until, before 
midnight had struck, all the heavenly host were shedding 
their beautiful brilliancy upon us again with apparently 



106 THE CRUISE aF TEE "CACHALOT.^ 

increased glory, while the freshness and invigorating feel 
of the air was inexpressibly delightful. 

We did not court danger by hugging too closely any 
of the ugly reefs and banks that abound in this notably 
difficult strait, but gave them all a respectfully wide 
berth. It was a feature of our navigation that, unless 
we had occasion to go near any island or reef for fishing 
or landing purposes, we always kept a safe margin of 
distance away, which probably accounts for our con- 
tinued immunity from accident while in tortuous waters. 
Our anchors and cables were, however, always kept 
ready for use now, in case of an unsuspected current 
or sudden storm ; but beyond that precaution, I could 
see little or no difference in the manner of our primitive 
navigation. 

We met with no '* luck *' for some time, and the faces 
of the harpooners grew daily longer, the great heat of 
those sultry waters trying all tempers sorely. But 
Captain Slocum knew his business, and his scowling, 
impassive face showed no sign of disappointment, or 
indeed any other emotion, as day by day we crept 
farther north. At last we sighted the stupendous peak of 
Comoro mountain, which towers to nearly nine thousand 
feet from the little island which gives its name to the 
Comoro group of four. On that same day a school of 
medium-sized sperm whales were sighted, which appeared 
to be almost of a different race to those with which we 
had hitherto had dealings. They were exceedingly fat 
and lazy, moving with the greatest deliberation, and, 
when we rushed in among them, appeared utterly 
bewildered and panic-stricken, knowing not which way 
to flee. Like a flock of frightened sheep they huddled 
together, aimlessly wallowing in each other's way. 



A VISIT TO SOME STRANGE PLACES, 107 

while we harpooned them with the greatest ease and 
impunity. Even the **old man" himself lowered the 
fifth boat, leaving the ship to the carpenter, cooper, 
cook, and steward, and coming on the scene as if 
determined to make a field-day of the occasion. lie 
was no " slouch" at the business either. Not that 
there was much occasion or opportunity to exhibit 
any prowess. The record of the day's proceedings 
would be as tame as to read of a day's work in a 
slaughter-house. SutEce it to say, that we actually 
killed six whales, none of whom were less than fifty 
barrels, no boat ran out more than one hundred fathoms 
of line, neither was a bomb-lance used. Not the slightest 
casualty occurred to any of the boats, and the whole 
work of destruction was over in less than four hours. 

Then came the trouble. The fish were, of course, 
somewhat widely separated when they died, and the 
task of collecting all those immense carcasses was one 
of no ordinary magnitude. Had it not been for the 
wonderfully skilful handling of the ship, the task would, 
I should think, have been impossible, but the way in 
which she was worked compelled the admiration of 
anybody who knew what handling a ship meant. Still, 
with all the ability manifested, it was five hours after 
the last whale died before we had gathered them all 
alongside, bringing us to four o'clock in the afternoon. 

A complete day under that fierce blaze of the tropical 
sun, without other refreshment than an occasional 
furtive drink of tepid water, had reduced us to a 
pitiable condition of weakness, so much so that the 
skipper judged it prudent, as soon as the fluke-chains 
were passed, to give us a couple of hours' rest. As soon 
as the sun had set we were all turned to again, three 



108 TEE CRUISE OF TEE "CACEALOT^ 

cressets were prepared, and by their blaze we toiled 
the whole night through. Truth compels me to state, 
though, that none of us foremast hands had nearly 
such heavy work as the officers on the stage. What 
they had to do demanded special knowledge and skill ; 
but it was also terribly hard work, constant and un- 
remitting, while we at the windlass had many a short 
spell between the lifting of the pieces. Even the skipper 
took a hand, for the first time, and right manfully did 
he do his share. 

By the first streak of dawn, three of the whales had 
been stripped of their blubber, and five heads were 
bobbing astern at the ends of as many hawsers. The 
sea all around presented a wonderful sight. There 
must have been thousands of sharks gathered to the 
feast, and their incessant incursions through the 
phosphorescent water wove a dazzling network of 
brilliant tracks which made the eyes ache to look upon. 
A short halt was called for breakfast, which was greatly 
needed, and, thanks to the cook, was a thoroughly good 
one. He — blessings on him ! — had been busy fishing, as 
we drifted slowly, with savoury pieces of whale-beef 
for bait, and the result was a mess of fish which would 
have gladdened the heart of an epicure. Our hunger 
appeased, it was ** turn to " again, for there was now 
no time to be lost. The fierce heat soon acts upon the 
carcass of a dead whale, generating an immense volume 
of gas within it, which, in a wonderfully short space of 
time, turns the flesh putrid and renders the blubber 
BO rotten that it cannot be lifted, nor, if it could, would 
it be of any value. So it was no wonder that our haste 
was great, or that the august arbiter of our destinies 
himself condescended to take his place among the 



A VISIT TO SOME STRANGE PLACES, 109 

toilers. By nightfall the whole of our catch was on 
board, excepting such toll as the hungry hordes of 
Bharks had levied upon it in transit. A goodly number 
of them had paid the penalty of their rapacity with 
their lives, for often one would wriggle his way right 
up on to the reeking carcass, and, seizing a huge frag- 
ment of blubber, strive with might and main to tear 
it away. Then the lethal spade would drop upon his 
soft crown, cleaving it to the jaws, and with one flap 
of his big tail he would loose his grip, roll over and 
over, and sink, surrounded by a writhing crowd of 
his fellows, by whom he was speedily reduced into 
digestible fragments. 

The condition of the Cachalot's deck was now some- 
what akin to chaos. From the cabin door to the try- 
works there was hardly an inch of available space, and 
the oozing oil kept some of us continually baling it up, 
lest it should leak out through the interstices in the 
bulwarks. In order to avoid a breakdown, it became 
necessary to divide the crew into six-hour watches, as, 
although the work was exceedingly urgent on account 
of the weather, there were evident signs that some of 
the crew were perilously near giving in. So we got 
rest none too soon, and the good effects of it were soon 
apparent. The work went on with much more celerity 
than one would have thought possible, and soon the 
lumbered-up decks began to resume their normal 
appearance. 

As if to exasperate the " old man " beyond measure, 
on the third day of our operations a great school of 
sperm whales appeared, disporting all around the ship, 
apparently conscious of our helplessness to interfere 
with them. Notwithstanding our extraordinary haul. 



110 TEE CRUISE OF TEE ''CACEALOTr 

Captain Slocum went black with impotent rage, and, 
after glowering at the sportive monsters, beat a retreat 
below, unable to bear the sight any longer. During 
his absence we had a rare treat. The whole school 
surrounded the ship, and performed some of the 
strangest evolutions imaginable. As if instigated by 
one common impulse, they all elevated their massive 
heads above the surface of the sea, and remained for 
some time in that position, solemnly bobbing up and 
down amid the glittering wavelets like movable boulders 
of black rock.. Then, all suddenly reversed themselves, 
and, elevating their broad flukes in the air, commenced 
to beat them slowly and rhythmically upon the water, 
like so many machines. Being almost a perfect calm, 
every movement of the great mammals could be plainly 
seen ; some of them even passed so near to us that we 
could see how the lower jaw hung down, while the 
animal was swimming in a normal position. 

For over an hour they thus paraded around us, and 
then, as if startled by some hidden danger, suddenly 
headed off to the westward, and in a few minutes were 
out of our sight. 

"We cruised in the vicinity of the Comoro Islands for 
two months, never quite out of sight of the mountain 
while the weather was clear. During the whole of that 
time we were never clear of oil on deck, one catch 
always succeeding another before there had been time 
to get cleared up. Eight hundred barrels of oil were added 
to our cargo, making the undisciplined hearts of all to 
whom whaling was a novel employment beat high with 
hopes of a speedy completion of the cargo, and consequent 
return. Poor innocents that we were ! How could we 
know any better ? According to Goliath, with whom I 



A VISIT TO SOME STRANGE PLACES, 111 

often had a friendly chat, this was quite out of the 
ordinary run to have such luck in the ** Channel." 

***\Vay hack in de dark ages, w'en de whaleships 
war de pi'neers oh commerce, *n dey wan*t no worryin', 
poofity-plunkity steamhoats a-poundin* along, 'nough ter 
galley ebery whale clean eout oh dere skin, dey war plenty 
whaleships fill up in twelve, fifteen, twenty monf after 
leahin* home. *N er man hed his pick er places, too — 
didn' hah ter go moseyin erroun* like some ol' hobo 
lookin* fer day's work, 'n prayin de good Lord not ter 
let um fine it. No, sah; roun yer China Sea, coas* 
Japan, on de line, off shore, Vasquez, *mong de islan's, 
ohmos* anywhar, you couldn' hardly git way from *em. 
Neow, I clar ter glory I kaint imagine war dey all 
gone ter, dough we bin eout only six seven monf, *n got 
over tousan bar'l below. But I bin two year on er 
voy'ge and doan hardly see a sparm whale, much less 
catch one. But " — and here he whispered mysteriously — 
" dish yer olo man's de bery debbil's own chile, 'n his 
farder lookin' after him well — dat's my 'pinion. Only 
yew keep yer head tight shut, an' nebber say er word, 
but keep er lookin', 'n sure's death you'll see." This 
conversation made a deep and lasting impression upon 
me, for I had not before heard even so much as a 
murmur from an officer against the tyranny of the 
skipper. Some of the harpooners were fluent enough, 
too. 

Yet I had often thought that his treatment of them, 
considering the strenuous nature of their toil, and the 
willingness with which they worked as long as they had 
an ounce of energy left, was worth at least a httle 
kindness and courtesy on his part. 

What the period may have been during which whales 



112 TEE CRUISE OF TEE " CACEALOT.** 

were plentiful here, I do not know, but it was now May, 
and for the last few days we had not seen a solitary 
spout of any kind. Preparations, very slight it is true, 
were made for departure ; but before we left those parts 
we made an interesting call for water at Mohilla, one 
of the Comoro group, which brought out, in unmistak- 
able fashion, the wonderful fund of local knowledge 
possessed by these men. At the larger ports of Johanna 
and Mayotte there is a regular tariff of port charges, 
which are somewhat heavy, and no whaleman would 
be so reckless as to incur these unless driven thereto 
by the necessity of obtaining provisions; otherwise, 
the islands offer great inducements to whaling captains 
to call, since none but men hopelessly mad would 
venture to desert in such places. That qualification 
is the chief one for any port to possess in the eyes of a 
whaling captain. 

Our skipper, however, saw no necessity for entering 
any port. Running up under the lee of Mohilla, we 
followed the land along until we came to a tiny bight 
on the western side of the island, an insignificant inlet 
which no mariner in charge of a vessel like ours could 
be expected even to notice, unless he were surveying. 
The approaches to this tiny harbour (save the mark) 
were very forbidding. Ugly-looking rocks showed up 
here and there, the surf over them frequently blinding 
the whole entry. But we came along, in our usual 
leisurely fashion, under two topsails, spanker, and fore- 
topmast staysail, and took that ugly passage like a 
sailing barge entering the Medway. There was barely 
room to turn round when we got inside, but all sail 
had been taken off her except the spanker, so that her 
way was almost stopped by the time she was fairly 



A VISIT TO SOME STRANGE PLACES. 113 

within the harbour. Down went the anchor, and she 
was fast — anchored for the first time since leaving New 
Bedford seven months before. Here we were shut out 
entirely from the outer world, for I doubt greatly whether 
even a passing dhow could have seen us from sea- 
ward. We were not here for rest, however, but wood 
and water ; so while one party was supplied with well- 
sharpened axes, and sent on shore to cut down such 
small trees as would serve our turn, another party was 
busily employed getting out a number of big casks for 
the serious business of watering. The cooper knocked 
off the second or quarter hoops from each of these 
casks, and drove them on again with two ** beckets " 
or loops of rope firmly jammed under each of them in 
such a manner that the loops were in line with each 
other on each side of the bunghole. They were then 
lowered overboard, and a long rope rove through all 
the beckets. When this was done, the whole number 
of casks floated end to end, upright and secure. We 
towed them ashore to where, by the skipper's directions, 
at about fifty yards from high-water mark, a spring of 
beautiful water bubbled out of the side of a mass of 
rock, losing itself in a deep crevice below. Lovely 
ferns, rare orchids, and trailing plants of many kinds 
surrounded this fairy-like spot in the wildest profusion, 
making a tangle of greenery that we had considerable 
trouble to clear away. Having done so, we led a long 
canvas hose from the spot whence the water flowed 
down to the shore where the casks floated. The chief 
officer, with great ingenuity, rigged up an arrangement 
whereby the hose, which had a square mouth about a 
foot wide, was held up to the rock, saving us the labour 
of baling and filling by hand. So we were able to rest 

I 



114 TEE CRUISE OF TEE ** CACEALOT.*' 

and admire at our ease the wonderful variety of beautiful 
plants which grew here so lavishly, unseen by mortal 
eye from one year's end to another. I have somewhere 
read that the Creator has delight in the beautiful work 
of His will, wherever it may be; and that while our 
egotism wonders at the waste of beauty, as we call it, 
there is no waste at all, since the Infinite Intelligence 
can dwell with complacency upon the glories of His 
handiwork, perfectly fulfilling their appointed ends. 

AU too soon the pleasant occupation came to an 
end. The long row of casks, filled to the brim and 
tightly bunged, were towed off by us to the ship, and 
ranged alongside. A tackle and pair of *' can-hooks '* 
was overhauled to the water and hooked to a cask. 
" Hoist away ! " And as the cask rose, the beckets that 
had held it to the mother-rope were cut, setting it quite 
free to come on board, but leaving all the others still 
secure. In this way we took in several thousand 
gallons of water in a few hours, with a small expendi- 
ture of labour, free of cost ; whereas, had we gone into 
Mayotte or Johanna, the water would have been bad, 
the price high, the labour great, with the chances of 
a bad visitation of fever in the bargain. 

The woodmen had a much more arduous task. The 
only wood they could find, without cutting down big 
trees, which would have involved far too much labour 
in cutting up, was a kind of iron-wood, which, besides 
being very heavy, was so hard as to take pieces clean 
out of their axe-edges, when a blow was struck directly 
across the grain. As none of them were experts, 
the condition of their tools soon made their work 
very hard. But that they had taken several axes in 
reserve, it is doubtful whether they would have beec 



A VISIT TO SOME STRANGE PLACES. 115 

able to get Buflicient fuel for our purpose. When they 
pitched the wood off the rocks into the harbour, it sank 
immediately, giving them a great deal of trouble to fish 
it up again. Neither could they raft it as intended, 
but were compelled to load it into the boats and make 
several journeys to and fro before all they had cut was 
shipped. Altogether, I was glad that the wooding had 
not fallen to my share. On board the ship fishing had 
been going on steadily most of the day by a few hands 
told off for the purpose. The result of their sport was 
splendid, over two hundred-weight of fine fish of various 
sorts, but all eatable, having been gathered in. 

We lay snugly anchored all night, keeping a bright 
look-out for any unwelcome visitors either from land or 
sea, for the natives are not to be trusted, neither do the 
Arab mongrels who cruise about those waters in their 
dhows bear any too good a reputation- We saw none, 
however, and at daylight we weighed and towed the ship 
out to sea with the boats, there being no wind. While 
busy ^t this uninteresting pastime, one of the boats 
slipped away, returning presently with a fine turtle, which 
they had surprised during his morning's nap. One of 
the amphibious Portuguese slipped over the boat's side as 
she neared the sleeping Spharga, and, diving deep, came 
up underneath him, seizing with crossed hands the two 
hind flippers, and, with a sudden, dexterous twist, turned 
the astonished creature over on his back. Thus rendered 
helpless, the turtle lay on the surface feebly waving his 
nippers, while his captor, gently treading water, held 
him in that position till the boat reached the pair and 
took them on board. It was a clever feat, neatly exe- 
cuted, as unlike the clumsy efforts I had before seen made 
with the same object as anything could possibly be. 



116 TEE CBUISE OF THE '* CACHALOT:' 

After an hour's tow, we had got a good offing, and a 
light air springing up, we returned on board, hoisted the 
boats, and made sail to the northward again. 

With the exception of the numerous native dhows that 
crept lazily about, we saw no vessels as we gradually 
drew out of the Mozambique Channel and stood away 
towards the Line. The part of the Indian Ocean in 
which we now found ourselves is much dreaded by 
merchantmen, who give it a wide berth on account of the 
numerous banks, islets, and dangerous currents with 
which it abounds. We, however, seemed quite at home 
here, pursuing the even tenor of our usual way without 
any special precautions being taken. A bright look-out 
we always kept, of course — none of your drowsy lolling 
about such as is all too common on the "fo'lk'sle head" of 
many a fine ship, when, with lights half trimmed or not 
shown at all, she is ploughing along blindly at twelve 
knots or so an hour. No; while we were under way 
during daylight, four pairs of keen eyes kept incessant 
vigil a hundred feet above the deck, noting everything, 
even to a shoal of small fish, that crossed within the 
range of vision. At night we scarcely moved, but still 
a vigilant look-out was always kept both fore and aft, 
so that it would have been difficult for us to drift upon 
a reef unknowingly. 

Creeping steadily northward, we passed the Cosmoledo 
group of atolls without paying them a visit, which was 
strange, as, from their appearance, no better fishing- 
ground would be Hkely to come in our way. They are 
little known, except to the wandering fishermen from 
Eeunion and Eodriguez, who roam about these islets and 
reefs, seeking anything that may be turned into coin, from 
wrecks to turtle, and in nowise particular as to rights 



A VISIT TO SOME STBANGS PLACES, 117 

of ownership. When between the Cosmoledos auJ Astove, 
the next island to the northward, we sighted a ** solitary ** 
cachalot one morning just as the day dawned. It was 
the first for some time— nearly throe weeks — and being 
all well seasoned to the work now, we obeyed the call 
to arms with great alacrity. Our friend was making a 
passage, turning neither to the right hand nor the left 
as he went. His risings and number of spouts while up, 
as well as the time he remained below, were as regular as 
the progress of a clock, and could be counted upon with 
quite as much certainty. 

Bearing in mind, I suppose, the general character of 
the whales we had recently met with, only two boats were 
lowered to attack the new-comer, who, all unconscious 
of our commg, pursued his leisurely course unheeding. 

We got a good weather-gage of him, and came flying 
on as usual, getting two irons planted in fine style. But 
a surprise awaited us. As we sheered up into the wind 
away from him, Louis shouted, ** Fightin' whale, sir ; 
look out for de rush ! " Look out, indeed ! Small use in 
looking out when, hampered as we always were at first 
with the unshipping of the mast, we could do next to 
nothing to avoid him. Without any of the desperate 
flounderings generally indulged in on first feeling the 
iron, he turned upon us, and had it not been that he 
caught sight of the second mate's boat, which had just 
arrived, and turned his attentions to her, there would 
have been scant chance of any escape for us. Leaping 
half out of water, he made direct for our comrades with 
a vigour and ferocity marvellous to see, making it a 
no easy matter for them to avoid his tremendous rush. 
Our iictious, at no time slow, were considerably hastened 
by this* display of valour, so that before he could turn 



118 TEE CRUISE OF TEE *' CACEALOTr 

his attentions in our direction we were ready for him. 
Then ensued a really big fight, the first, in fact, of my 
experience, for none of the other whales had shown any 
serious determination to do us an injury, but had devoted 
all their energies to attempts at escape. So quick were 
the evolutions, and so savage the appearance of this 
fellow, that even our veteran mate looked anxious as to 
the possible result. Without attempting to " sound," 
the furious monster kept mostly below the surface ; but 
whenever he rose, it was either to deliver a fearful blow 
with his tail, or, with jaws widespread, to try and bite one 
of our boats in half. Well was it for us that he was 
severely handicapped by a malformation of the lower 
jaw. At a short distance from the throat it turned off 
nearly at right angles to his body, the part that thus 
protruded sideways being deeply fringed with barnacles, 
and plated with big limpets. 

Had it not been for this impediment, I verily believe 
he would have beaten us altogether. As it was, he worked 
us nearly to death with his ugly rushes. Once he 
delivered a sidelong blow with his tail, which, as we spun 
round, shore off the two oars on that side as if they had 
been carrots. At last the second mate got fast to him, 
and then the character of the game changed again. 
Apparently unwearied by his previous exertions, he now 
started off to windward at top speed, with the two boats 
sheering broadly out upon either side of his foaming 
wake. Doubtless because he himself was much fatigued, 
the mate allowed him to run at his will, without for the 
time attempting to haul any closer to him, and very 
grateful the short rest was to us. But he had not gone 
a couple of miles before he turned a complete^omersault 
in the water, coming up behind us to rush off again in 



M:. 


.M.: 




yi VISIT TO SOME STRANQE PLACES. 119 

the opposite direction at nndiminished speed. This 
moTG was a startler. For the moment it seemed as if 
both boats would be smashed like egg-shells against each 
other, or else that some of us would be impaled upon 
the long lances with which each boat's bow bristled. 
By what looked like a hand-breadth, we cleared each 
other, and the race continued. Up till now we had not 
succeeded in getting home a single lance, the foe was 
becoming warier, while the strain was certainly telling 
upon our nerves. So Mr. Count got out his bomb-gun, 
shouting at the same time to Mr. Cruco to do the same. 
They both hated these weapons, nor ever used them if 
they could help it ; but what was to be done ? 

Our chief had hardly got his gun ready, before we 
came to almost a dead stop. All was silent for just a 
moment ; then, with a roar like a cataract, up sprang the 
huge creature, head out, jaw wide open, coming direct for 
us. As coolly as if on the quarter-deck, the mate raised 
his gun, firing the bomb directly down the great livid 
cavern of a throat fronting him. Down went that 
mountainous head not six inches from us, but with a. 
perfectly indescribable motion, a tremendous writhe, in 
fact ; up flew the broad tail in air, and a blow which might- 
have sufliced to stave in the side of the ship struck the- 
second mate's boat fairly amidships. It was right before 
my eyes, not sixty feet away, and the sight will haunt me 
to^y death. The tub oarsman was the poor German 
baker, about whom I have hitherto said nothing, except 
to note that he was one of the crew. That awful blow 
put an end summarily to all his earthly anxieties. As 
it shore obliquely through the centre of the boat, it drove 
his poor body right through her timbers — an undistin- 
guishable bundle of what was an instant before a human 



120 TEE CRUISE OF TEE " CACEALOT.** 

being. The other members of the crew escaped the 
blow, and the harpooner managed to cut the line, so that 
for the present they were safe enough, clinging to the 
remains of their boat, unless the whale should choose to 
rush across them. 

Happily, his rushing was almost over. The bomb 
fired by Mr. Count, with such fatal result to poor Bam- 
berger, must have exploded right in the whale's throat. 
Whether his previous titanic efforts had completely 
exhausted him, or whether the bomb had broken his 
massive backbone, I do not know, of course, but he went 
into no flurry, dying as peacefully as his course had 
been furious. For the first time in my life, I had been 
face to face with a violent death, and I was quite stunned 
with the awfulness of the experience. Mechanically, as 
it seemed to me, we obeyed such orders as were given, 
but every man's thoughts were with the shipmate so 
suddenly dashed from amongst us. We never saw sign 
of him again. 

While the ship was running down to us, another 
boat had gone to rescue the clinging crew of the shatterecl 
boat, for the whole drama had been witnessed from the 
ship, although they were not aware of the death of the 
poor German. When the sad news was told on board, 
there was a deep silence, all work being carried on so 
quietly that we seemed like a crew of dumb men. With 
a sentiment for which I should not have given our 
grim skipper credit, the stars and stripes were hoisted 
half-mast, telling the silent sky and moaning sea, sole 
witnesses besides ourselves, of the sudden departure 
from among us of our poor shipmate. 

We got the whale cut in as usual without any incident 
worth mentioning, except that the peculiar shape of the 



A VISIT TO SOME STRANGE PLACES, 121 

jaw made it an object of great curiosity to all of us who 
were new to the whale-fishing. Such malformations are 
not very rare. They are generally thought to occur 
when the animal ia young, and its bones soft ; but whether 
done in fighting with one another, or in some more 
mysterious way, nobody knows. Cases have been known, 
I believe, where the deformed whale does not appear to 
have suffered from lack of food in consequence of his 
disability ; but in each of the three instances which have 
come under my own notice, such was certainly not the 
case. These whales were what is termed by the whalers 
** dry-skins ; " that is, they were in poor condition, the 
blubber yielding less than half the usual quantity of oil. 
The absence of oil makes it very hard to cut up, and 
there is more work in one whale of this kind than in two 
whose blubber is rich and soft. Another thing which 1 
have also noticed is, that these whales were much more 
difficult to tackle than others, for each of them gave us 
something special to remember them by. But I must 
not get ahead of my yarn. 

The end of the week brought us up to the Aldabra 
Islands, one of the puzzles of the world. For here, in 
these tiny pieces of earth, surrounded by thousands of 
miles of sea, the nearest land a group of islets like unto 
them, is found the gigantic tortoise, and in only one other 
place in the wide world, the Galapagos group of islands 
in the South Pacific. How, or by what strange freak of 
Dame Nature these curious reptiles, sole survivals of 
another age, should come to be found in this lonely spot, 
is a deep mystery, and one not likely to be unfolded 
now. At any rate, there they are, looking as if some of 
them might be coeval with Noah, so venerable and 
storm-beaten do they appear. 



122 TEE CBUISE OF THE " CACE^LOT." 

We made the island early on a Sunday morning, and, 
with the usual celerity, worked the vessel into the fine har- 
bour, called, from one of the exploring ships, Euphrates 
Bay or Harbour. The anchor down, and everything made 
snug below and aloft, we were actually allowed a run 
ashore free from restraint. I could hardly believe my 
ears. We had got so accustomed to our slavery that 
liberty was become a mere name ; we hardly knew what 
to do with it when we got it. However, we soon got 
used (in a very limited sense) to being our own masters, 
and, each following the b«nt of his inclinations, set out 
for a ramble. My companion and I had not gone far, 
when we thought we saw one of the boulders, with which 
the island was liberally besprinkled, on the move. 
Kunning up to examine it with all the eagerness of 
children let out of school, we found it to be one of the 
inhabitants, a monstrous tortoise. I had seen some big 
turtle around the cays of the Gulf of Mexico, but this 
creature dwarfed them all. We had no means of actually 
measuring him, and had to keep clear of his formidable- 
looking jaws, but roughly, and within the mark, he was 
four feet long by two feet six inches wide. Of course he 
was much more dome-shaped than the turtle are, and 
consequently looked a great deal bigger than a turtle of 
the same measurement would, besides being much 
thicker through. As he was loth to stay with us, we 
made up our minds to go with him, for he was evidently 
making for some definite spot, by the tracks he was 
following, which showed plainly how many years that 
same road had been used. Well, I mounted on his back, 
keeping well astern, out of the reach ot that serious- 
looking head, which, having rather a long neck, looked as 
if it might be able to reach round and take a piece out 



A VISIT TO SOME STJiANGE PLACES. 123 

of a fellow without any trouble. IIo was perfectly 
amicable, continuing his journey as if nothing had 
happened, and really getting over the ground at a good 
rate, considering the bulk and shape of him. Except 
for the novelty of the thing, this sort of ride had nothing 
to recommend it ; so I soon tired of it, and let him waddle 
along in peace. By following the tracks aforesaid, we 
arrived at a fine stream of water sparkling out of a 
hillside, and running down a little ravine. The sides of 
this gully were worn quite smooth by the innumerable 
feet of the tortoises, about a dozen of which were now 
quietly crouching at the water's edge, filling themselves 
up with the cooling fluid. I did not see the patriarch 
upon whom a sailor once reported that he had read the 
legend carved, " The Ark, Captain Noah. Ararat for 
orders"; perhaps he had at last closed his peaceful 
career. But strange and quaint as this exhibition of 
ancient reptiles was, we had other and better employment 
for the limited time at our disposal. There were in- 
numerable curious things to see, and, unless we were to 
run the risk of going on board again and stopping there, 
dinner must be obtained. Eggs of various kinds were 
exceedingly plentiful; in many places the flats were 
almost impassable for sitting birds, mostly ** boobies.** 

But previous experience of boobies* eggs in other 
places had not disposed me to seek them where others 
were to be obtained, and as I had seen many of the well- 
known frigate or man-o'-war birds hovering about, we 
set out to the other side of the island in search of the 
breeding-place. 

These peculiar birds are, I think, misnamed. They 
should be called pirate or buccaneer birds, from their 
marauding habits. Seldom or never do they condescend 



]24 TEE CRUISE OF THE ''CACHALOT.^ 

to fish for themselves, preferring to hover high in the 
blue, their tails opening and closing like a pair of 
scissors as they hang poised above the sea. Presently 
booby — like some honest housewife who has been a- 
marketing — comes flapping noisily home, her maw 
laden with fish for the chicks. Down comes the black 
watcher from above with a swoop like an eagle. Booby 
puts all she knows into her flight, but vainly ; escape 
is impossible, so with a despairing shriek she drops her 
load. Before it has touched the water the graceful thief 
has intercepted it, and soared slowly aloft again, to 
repeat the performance as occasion serves. 

When we arrived on the outer shore of the island, we 
found a large breeding-place of these birds, but totally 
different to the haunt of the boobies. The nests, if they 
might be so-called, being at best a few twigs, were 
mostly in the hollows of the rocks, the number of eggs 
being two to a nest, on an average. The eggs were 
nearly as large as a turkey's. But I am reminded of the 
range of size among turkeys' eggs, so I must say they 
were considerably larger than a small turkey's egg. 
Their flavour was most delicate, as much so as the eggs 
of a moor-fed fowl. We saw no birds sitting, but here 
and there the gaunt skeleton forms of birds, who by 
reason of sickness or old age were unable to provide 
for themselves, and so sat waiting for death, appealed 
most mournfully to us. We went up to some of these 
poor creatures, and ended their long agony ; but there 
were many of them that we were obliged to leave to 
Nature. 

We saw no animals larger than a rat, but there 
were a great many of those eerie-looking land-crabs, 
that seemed as if almost humanly intelligent as they 



A VISIT TO SOME STRANGE PLACES, 125 

scampered about over the sand or through the nnder- 
growth, busy about goodness knows what. The beauti- 
ful cocoa-nut palm was plentiful, so much so that I 
wondered why there were no settlers to collect ** copra,'* 
or dried cocoa-nut, for oil. My West Indian experience 
came in handy now, for I was able to climb a lofty 
tree in native fashion, and cut down a grand bunch ol 
green nuts, which form one of the most refreshing and 
nutritious of foods, as well as a cool and delicious drink. 
We had no line with us, so we took ofif our belts, which, 
securely joined together, answered my purpose very well. 
With them I made a loop round the tree and myself ; 
then as I climbed I pushed the loop up with me, so that 
whenever I wanted a rest, I had only to lean back in it, 
keeping my knees against the trunk, and I was almost 
as comfortable as if on the ground. 

After getting the nuts, we made a fire and roasted 
some of our eggs, which, with a biscuit or two, made a 
delightful meaL Then we fell asleep under a shady 
tree, upon some soft moss ; nor did we wake again 
until nearly time to go on board. A most enjoyable 
swim terminated our day's outing, and we returned to 
the beach abroiist of the shin very pleased with the 
excursion. 

We had no adventures, found no hidden treasure or 
ferocious animals, but none the less we thoroughly 
enjoyed ourselves. While we sat waiting for the boat to 
come and fetch us off, we saw a couple of good-sized 
turtle come ashore quite close to us. We kept perfectly 
still until we were sure of being able to intercept them. 
As soon as they had got far enough away from their 
native element, we rushed upon them, and captured 
them both, so that when the boat arrived we were not 



126 THE CRUISE OF THE ''CACHALOT.'' 

empty-handed. We had also a '* jumper," or blouse, full 
of eggs, and a couple of immense bunches of cocoa-nuts. 
When we got on board we felt quite happy, and, for the 
first time since leaving America, we had a little singing. 
Shall I be laughed at when I confess that our musical 
efforts were confined to Sankey's hymns ? Maybe, but 
I do not care. Cheap and clap-trap as the music may 
be, it tasted **real good," as Abner said, and I am quite 
sure that that Sunday night was the best that any of us 
had spent for a very long time. 

A long, sound sleep was terminated at dawn, when 
we weighed and stood out through a narrow passage by 
East Island, which was quite covered with fine trees — of 
what kind I do not know, but they presented a beautiful 
sight. Myriads of birds hovered about, busy fishing 
from the countless schools that rippled the placid sea. 
Beneath us, at twenty fathoms, the wonderful architec- 
ture of the coral was plainly visible through the 
brilliantly-clear sea, while, wherever the tiny builders 
had raised their fairy domain near the surface, an 
occasional roller would crown it with a snowy garland of 
foam — a dazzling patch of white against the sapphire 
sea. Altogether, such a panorama was spread out at 
our feet, as we stood gazing from the lofty crow's-nest, as 
was worth a year or two of city life to witness. I could 
not help pitying my companion, one of the Portuguese 
harpooners, who stolidly munched his quid with no eyes 
for any of these glorious pictures, no thought of anything 
but a possible whale in sight. 

My silent rhapsodies were rudely interrupted by 
something far away on the horizon. Hardly daring to 
breathe, I strained my eyes, and — yes, it was — " Ah 
blow-w-w-w ! " I bellowed at the top of my lung-power. 



A VISIT TO SOME STRASQE PLACES, 127 

Never before had I bad tbe opportunity of thus dia- 
tinguisbing myself, and I felt a bit sore about it. 

There was a little obliquity about the direction of the 
spout that made me hopeful, for the cachalot alone sends 
his spout diagonally upward, all the others spout 
vertically. It was but a school of kogia, or ** short- 
headed" cachalots; but as we secured five of them, 
averaging seven barrels each, with scarcely any trouble, 
I felt quite pleased with myself. We had quite an 
exciting bit of sport with them, they were so lively ; 
but as for danger — well, they only seemed like big ** black 
fish ** to us now, and we quite enjoyed the fun. They 
were, in all respects, miniature sperm whales, except that 
the head was much shorter and smaller in proportion to 
the body than their big relations. 



128 TEE CRUISE OF TEE " CACEALOT* 



CHAPTER XI. 

EOUND THE COCOS AND SEYCHELLES 

HiTHEPwTO, with the exception of a couple of gales in tLe 
North and South Atlantic, we had been singularly 
fortunate in our weather. It does happen so sometimes. 

I remember once making a round voyage from 
Cardiff to Hong Kong and the Philippines, back to 
London, in ten months, and during the whole of that 
time we did not have a downright gale. The worst 
weather we encountered was between Beachy Head and 
Portland, going round from London to Cardiff. 

And I once spoke the barque Lutterworth , a com- 
panion ship to us from Portland, Oregon to Falmouth, 
whose mate informed me that they carried their royals 
from port to port without ever furling them once, 
except to shift the suit of sails. But now a change 
was evidently imminent. Of course, we forward had no 
access to the barometer ; not that we should have under- 
stood its indications if we had seen it, but we all knew 
that something was going to be radically wrong with the 
weather. For instead of the lovely blue of the sky we had 
been so long accustomed to by day and night, a nasty, 
greasy shade had come over the heavens, which, reflected 
in the sea, made that look dirty and stale also. That 



ROUND THE COCOS AND BEYCUELLE8. 129 

well-known appearance of the waves before a storm was 
also very marked, which consists of an undecided sort of 
break in their tops. Instead of running regularly, they 
seemed to hunch themselves up in little heaps, and 
throw off a tiny flutter of spray, which generally fell in 
the opposite direction to what little wind there was. 
The pigs and fowls felt the approaching change keenly, 
and manifested the greatest uneasiness, leaving their 
food and acting strangely. We were making scarcely 
any headway, so that the storm was longer making its 
appearance than it would have been had we been a 
fiwift clipper ship running down the Indian Ocean. For 
two days we were kept in suspense ; but on the second 
night the gloom began to deepen, the wind to moan, and 
a very uncomfortable ** jobble " of a sea got up. Extra 
"gaskets'* were put upon the sails, and everything 
movable about the decks was made as secure as it could 
be. Only the two close-reefed topsails and two storm 
stay-sails were carried, so that we were in excellent 
trim for fighting the bad weather when it did come. The 
sky gradually darkened and assumed a livid green tint, 
the effect of which was most peculiar. 

The wind blew fitfully in short gusts, veering con- 
tinually back and forth over about a quarter of the 
compass. Although it was still light, it kept up an 
incessant mournful moan not to be accounted for in 
any way. Darker and darker grew the heavens, although 
no clouds were visible, only a general pall of darkness. 
Glimmering lightnings played continually about the 
eastern horizon, but not brilliant enough to show us the 
approaching storm-cloud. And so came the morning 
of the third day from the beginning of the change. 
But for the clock we should hardly have known that day 

K 



130 THE CRUISE OF THE "CACHALOTS 

had broken, so gloomy and dark was the sky. At last 
light came in the east, but such a light as no one would 
wish to see. It was a lurid glare, such as may be 
seen playing over a cupola of Bessemer steel when the 
speigeleisen is added, only on such an extensive scale 
that its brilliancy was dulled into horror. Then, beneath 
it we saw the mountainous clouds fringed with dull 
violet and with jagged sabres of lightning darting from 
their solid black bosoms. The wind began to rise 
steadily but rapidly, so that by eight a.m. it was blowing 
a furious gale from E.N.E. In direction it was still 
unsteady, the ship coming up and falling off to it several 
points. Now, great masses of torn, ragged cloud hurtled 
past us above, so low down as almost to touch the mast- 
heads. Still the wind increased, still the sea rose, till 
at last the skipper judged it well to haul down the tiny 
triangle of storm stay-sail still set (the topsail and fore 
stay- sail had been furled long before), and let her drift 
under bare poles, except for three square feet of stout 
canvas in the weather mizen-rigging. The roar of 
the wind now dominated every sound, so that it might 
have been thundering furiously, but we should not 
have heard it. The ship still maintained her splendid 
character as a sea-boat, hardly shipping a drop of water ; 
but she lay over at a most distressing angle, her deck 
sloping off fully thirty-five to forty degrees. Fortu- 
nately she did not roll to windward. It may have been 
raining in perfect torrents, but the tempest tore off the 
surface of the sea, and sent it in massive sheets con- 
tinually flying over us, so that we could not possibly 
have distinguished between fresh water and salt. 

The chief anxiety was for the safety of the boats. 
Early on the second day of warning they had been 



BOUND THE C0C03 AND SKYCEELLES. 131 

noisted to the topmost notch of the cranes, and secured 
as thoroughly as experience could suggest ; but at every 
lee lurch we gave it seemed as if we must dip them 
under water, while the wind threatened to stave the 
weather ones in by its actual solid weight. It was now 
blowing a furious cyclone, the force of which has never 
been accurately gauged (even by the present elaborate 
instruments of various kinds in use). That force is, 
however, not to be imagined by any one who has not 
witnessed it, except that one notable instance is on 
record by which mathematicians may get an approximate 
estimate. 

Captain Toynbee, the late highly respected and admired 
Marine Superintendent of the British Meteorological 
Office, has told us how, during a cyclone which he rode out 
in the Hotspur at Sandheads, the mouth of the Hooghly^ 
the three naked topgallant-masts of his ship, though of 
well-tested timber a foot in diameter, and supported by 
all the usual network of stays, and without the yards, 
were snapped off and carried away solely by the violence 
of the wind. It must, of course, have been an extreme 
gust, which did not last many seconds, for no cable that 
was ever forged would have held the ship against such a 
cataclysm as that. This gentleman's integrity is above 
suspicion, so that no exaggeration could be charged 
against him, and he had the additional testimony of his 
officers and men to this otherwise incredible fact. 

The terrible day wore on, without any lightening of 
the tempest, till noon, whan the wind suddenly fell to 
a calm. Until that time the sea, although heavy, was 
not vicious or irregular, and we had not shipped any 
heavy water at all. But when the force of the wind 
was suddenly withdrawn, such a sea arose as I have 



132 THE CRUISE OF TEE " CACHALOT » 

never seen before or since. Inky mountains of water 
raised their savage heads in wildest confusion, smash- 
ing one another in whirlpools of foam. It was like a 
picture of the primeval deep out of which arose the 
new-born world. Suddenly out of the whirling blackness 
overhead the moon appeared, nearly in the zenith, send- 
ing down through the apex of a dome of torn and madly 
gyrating cloud a flood of brilliant light. Illumined by 
that startling radiance, our staunch and seaworthy ship 
was tossed and twirled in the hideous vortex of mad 
sea until her motion was distracting. It was quite 
impossible to loose one's hold and attempt to do any- 
thing without running the imminent risk of being dashed 
to pieces. Our decks were full of water now, for it 
tumbled on board at all points ; but as yet no serious 
weight of a sea had fallen upon us, nor had any damage 
been done. Such a miracle as that could not be ex- 
pected to continue for long. Suddenly a warning shout 
rang out from somewhere — "Hold on all, for your lives!" 
Out of the hideous turmoil around arose, like some black, 
fantastic ruin, an awful heap of water. Higher and 
higher it towered, until it was level with our lower yards, 
then it broke and fell upon us. All was blank. Beneath 
that mass every thought, every feeling, fled but one — 
^* How long shall I be able to hold my breath ? " After 
what seemed a never-ending time, we emerged from the 
wave more dead than alive, but with the good ship still 
staunch underneath us, and Hope's lamp burning brightly. 
The moon had been momentarily obscured, but now 
shone out again, lighting up brilliantly our bravely- 
battling ship. But, alas for others ! — men, like ourselves, 
whose hopes were gone. Quite near us was the battered 
remainder of what had been a splendid ship. Her masts 



ROUND TEE €0008 AND 8ET0BELLE3. 133 

were gone, not even the stumps being visible, and it 
Bcemed to our eager eyes as if she was settling down. 
It was even so, for as we looked, unmindful of our own 
danger, she quietly disappeared — swallowed up with her 
human freight in a moment, like a pebble dropped into 
a pond. 

While we looked with hardly beating hearts at the 
place where she had sunk, all was blotted out in thick 
darkness again. With a roar, as of a thousand thunders, 
the tempest came once more, but from the opposite direc- 
tion now. As we were under no sail, we ran little risk 
of being caught aback ; but, even had we, nothing could 
have been done, the vessel being utterly out of control, 
besides the impossibility of getting about. It so happened, 
however, that when the storm burst upon us again, we 
were stern on to it, and we drove steadily for a few 
moments until we had time to haul to the wind again. 
Great heavens ! how it blew ! Surely, I thought, this 
cannot last long — ^just as we sometimes say of the rain 
when it is extra heavy. It did last, however, for what 
seemed an interminable time, although any one could 
see that the sky was getting kindlier. Gradually, im- 
perceptibly, it took off, the sky cleared, and the tumult 
ceased, until a new day broke in untellable beauty over 
a revivified world. 

Years afterwards I read, in one of the hand-books 
treating of hurricanes and cyclones, that ** in the centre 
of these revolving storms the sea is so violent that few 
ships can pass through it and live.'* That is true talk. 
I have been there, and bear witness that but for the 
build and sea-kindliness of the Cacludot, she could not 
have come out of that horrible cauldron again, but would 
have joined that nameless unfortunate whom we saw 



134 TEE CRUISE OF TEE " CACEALOTr 

succumb, ** never again heard of.'* As it was, we found 
two of the boats stove in, whether by breaking sea or 
crushing wind nobody knows. Most of the planking 
of the bulwarks was also gone, burst outward by the 
weight of the water on deck. Only the normal quantity 
of water was found in the well on sounding, and not 
even a rope-yarn was gone from aloft. Altogether, we 
came out of the ordeal triumphantly, where many a 
jgallant vessel met her fate, and the behaviour of the 
^and old tub gave me a positive affection for her, such 
4is I have never felt for a ship before or since. 

There was now a big heap of work for the carpenter, 
.BO the skipper decided to run in for the Cocos or Keeling 
Islands, in order to lay quietly and refit. We had now 
-only three boats sound, the one smashed when poor 
Bamberger died being still unfinished — of course, the 
repairs had practically amounted to rebuilding. There- 
fore we kept away for this strange assemblage of reefs 
•and islets, arriving off them early the next day. 

They consist of a true " atoll," or basin, whose rim 
is of coral reefs, culminating occasionally in sandy 
islands or cays formed by the accumulated debris washed 
up from the reef below, and then clothed upon with all 
eorts of plants by the agency of birds and waves. 

These islands have lately been so fully described in 
many different journals, that I shall not burden the 
reader with any twice-told tales about them, but merely 
chronicle the fact that for a week we lay at anchor off 
one of the outlying cays, toiling continuously to get the 
vessel again in fighting trim. 

At last the overworked carpenter and his crew got 
through their heavy task, and the order was given t(? 
** man the windlass.'* Up came the anchor, and away 



BOUND THE C0C08 AND SEYCHELLES. 135 

we went again towards what used to be a noted haunt 
of the sperm whale, the Seychelle Archipelago. Before 
the French, whose flag flies over these islands, had with 
their usual short-sighted policy, clapped on prohibitive 
port charges, Maho was a specially favoured place of 
call for the whalers. But when whaleships find that it 
does not pay to visit a place, being under no compul- 
sion as regards time, they soon find other harbours 
that serve their turn. We, of course, had no need 
to visit any port for some time to come, having made 
such good use of our opportunities at the Cocos. 

We found whales scarce and small, so, although we 
cruised in this vicinity for nearly two months, six small 
cow cachalots were all we were able to add to our stock, 
representing less than two hundred barrels of oil. This 
was hardly good enough for Captain Slocum. Therefore, 
we gradually drew away from this beautiful cluster of 
islands, and crept across the Indian Ocean towards the 
Straits of Malacca. On the way, we one night encountered 
that strange phenomenon, a " milk " sea. It was a lovely 
night, with scarcely any wind, the stars trying to make 
up for the absence of the moon by shining with intense 
brightness. The water had been more phosphorescent 
than usual, so that every little fish left a track of light 
behind him, greatly disproportionate to his size. As 
the night wore on, the sea grew brighter and brighter, 
until by midnight we appeared to be saihng on an ocean 
of lambent flames. Every little wave that broke against 
the ship's side sent up a shower of diamond-like spray, 
wonderfully beautiful to see, while a passing school of 
porpoises fairly set the sea blazing as they leaped and 
gambolled in its glowing waters. Looking up from sea 
to sky, the latter seemed quite black instead of blue, and 



136 TEE CRUISE OF THE " CACEALOTr 

the lustre of the stars was diminished till they only 
looked like points of polished steel, having quite lost for 
the time their radiant sparkle. In that shining flood 
the blackness of the ship stood out in startling contrast, 
and when we looked over the side our faces were strangely 
lit up by the brilliant glow. 

For several hours this beautiful appearance per- 
sisted, fading away at last as gradually as it come. 
No satisfactory explanation of this curious phenomenon 
has ever been given, nor does it appear to portend any 
change of weather. It cannot be called a rare occur- 
rence, although I have only seen it thrice myself — 
once in the Bay of Cavite, in the Philippine Islands ; once 
in the Pacific, near the Solomon Islands ; and on this 
occasion of which I now write. But no one who had 
ever witnessed it could forget so wonderful a sight. 

, One morning, a week after we had taken our 
departure from the Seychelles, the officer at the main 
crow's-nest reported a vessel of some sort about five 
miles to windward. Something strange in her appear- 
ance made the skipper haul up to intercept her. As 
we drew nearer, we made her out to be a Malay " prahu ; " 
but, by the look of her, she was deserted. The big three- 
cornered sail that had been set, hung in tattered festoons 
from the long, slender yard, which, without any gear to 
steady it, swung heavily to and fro as the vessel rolled 
to the long swell. We drew closer and closer, but no 
sign of life was visible on board, so the captain ordered 
a boat to go and investigate. 

In two minutes we were speeding away towards her, 
and, making a sweep round her stern, prepared to board 
her. But we were met by a stench so awful that Mr. 
Count would not proceed, and at once returned to the 



ROUND THE COCOS AND SETCEELLES. 137 

ship. The boat was quickly hoisted again, and the 
ship manoeuvred to pass close to windward of the 
derelict. Then, Trora our mast-head, a horrible sight 
became visible. Lying about the weather-beaten deck, 
in various postures, were thirteen corpses, all far advanced 
in decay, which horrible fact fully accounted for the 
intolerable stench that had driven us away. It is, 
perhaps, hardly necessary to say that we promptly hauled 
our wind, and placed a good distance between us and 
that awful load of death as soon as possible. Poor 
wretches ! What terrible calamity had befallen them, we 
could not guess ; whatever it was, it had been complete ; 
nor would any sane man falling across them run the 
risk of closer examination into details than we had done. 
It was a great pity that we were not able to sink the 
prahu with her ghastly cargo, and so free the air from 
that poisonous foetor that was a deadly danger to any 
vessel getting under her lee. 

Next day, and for a whole week after, we had a 
stark calm — such a calm as one realizes who reads 
sympathetically that magical piece of work, the ** Ancient 
Mariner." What an amazing instance of the triumph 
of the human imagination ! For Coleridge certainly 
never witnessed such a scene as he there describes with 
an accuracy of detail that is astounding. Very few 
sailors have noticed the sickening condition of the ocean 
when the Hfe-giving breeze totally fails for any length 
of time, or, if they have, they have said but little about 
it. Of course, some parts of the sea show the evil 
effects of stagnation much sooner than others; but, 
generally speaking, want of wind at sea, if long continued, 
produces a condition of things dangerous to the health 
of any laud near by. Whale-ships, penetrating as they 



138 TEE CRUISE OF TEE " CACEALOTJ' 

do to parts carefully avoided by ordinary trading vessels, 
often afford their crews an opportunity of seeing things 
mostly hidden from the sight of man, when, actuated 
by some mysterious impulse, the uncanny denizens cf 
the middle depths of the ocean rise to higher levels, and 
show their weird shapes to the sun. 



C ^^^ ) 



CHAPTER XII. 

WHICH TREATS OP THE KRAKEN. 

It has ofteu been a matter for considerable surprise to 
me, that while the urban population of Great Britain is 
periodically agitated over the great sea-serpent question, 
sailors, as a class, have very little to say on the subject. 
During a considerable sea experience in all classes of 
vessels, except men-of-war, and in most positions, I 
have heard a fairly comprehensive catalogue of subjects 
brought under dog-watch discussion ; but the sea-serpent 
has never, within my recollection, been one of them. 

The reasons for this abstinence may vary a great 
deal, but chief among them is — sailors, as a class, " don't 
believe in no such a pusson." More than that, they do 
believe that the mythical sea-serpent is ** boomed "at 
certain periods, in the lack of other subjects, which 
may not be far from the fact. But there is also another 
reason, involving a disagreeable, although strictly ac- 
curate, statement. Sailors are, again taken as a class, 
the least observant of men. They will talk by the hour 
of trivialities about which they know nothing ; they will 
spin interminable ** cuffers " of debaucheries ashore all 
over the world ; pick to pieces the reputation of all the 
officers with whom they have ever sailed; but of the 



140 TEE CBUISJE OF THE " CACHALOT:' 

glories, marvels, and mysteries of the mighty deep you 
will hear not a word. I can never forgot when on my 
first voyage to the West Indies, at the age of twelve, I 
was one night smitten with awe and wonder at the 
sight of a vast halo round the moon, some thirty or 
forty degrees in diameter. Turning to the man at the 
wheel, I asked him earnestly ** what that was." He 
looked up with an uninterested eye for an instant in the 
direction of my finger, then listlessly informed me, 
** That's what they call a sarcle." For a long time I 
wondered what he could mean, but it gradually dawned 
upon me that it was his Norfolk pronunciation of the 
word circle. The definition was a typical one, no worse 
than would be given by the great majority of seamen of 
most of the natural phenomena they witness daily. 
Very few seamen could distinguish between one whale 
and another of a different species, or give an intelligible 
account of the most ordinary and often-seen denizens of 
the sea. Whalers are especially to be blamed for their 
blindness. **Eyes and no Eyes ; or the Art of Seeing " 
has evidently been little heard of among them. To 
this day I can conceive of no more delightful journey 
for a naturalist to take than a voyage in a southern 
whaler, especially if he were allowed to examine at his 
leisure such creatures as were caught. But on board 
the Cachalot I could get no information at all upon the 
habits of the strange creatures we met with, except 
whales, and very little about them. 

I have before referred to the great molluscs upon 
which the sperm whale feeds, portions of which I so 
frequently saw ejected from the stomach of dying 
whales. Great as my curiosity naturally was to know 
more of these immense organisms, all my inquiries on 



WHICH TREATS OF THE KRAKEN. 141 

the subject were fruitless. These veterans of the whale- 
fishery knew that the sperm whale lived on big cuttle- 
fish ; but they neither knew, nor cared to know, anything 
more about these marvellous molluscs. Yet, from the 
earliest dawn of history, observant men have been 
striving to learn something definite about the marine 
monsters of which all old legends of the sea have 
something to say. 

As I mentioned in the last chapter, we were gradually 
edging across the Indian Ocean towards Sumatra, but 
had been checked in our course by a calm lasting a 
whole week. A light breeze then sprang up, aided by 
which we crept around Achin Head, the northern point 
of the great island of Sumatra. Like some gigantic 
beacon, the enormous mass of the Golden Mountain 
dominated the peaceful scene. Pulo Way, or Water 
Island, looked very inviting, and I should have been 
glad to visit a place so well known to seamen by sight, 
but so little known by actual touching at. Our recent 
stay at the Cocos, however, had settled the question of 
our calling anywhere else for some time decidedly in 
the negative, unless we might be compelled by accident ; 
moreover, even in these days of law and order, it is not 
wise to go poking about among the islands of the 
Malayan seas unless you are prepared to fight. Our 
mission being to fight whales, we were averse to 
running any risks, except in the lawful and necessary 
exercise of our calling. 

It would at first sight appear strange that, in view 
of the enormous traffic of steamships through the 
Malacca Straits, so easily **gallied" a creature as the 
cachalot should care to frequent its waters ; indeed, I 
ehould certainly think that a great reduction in the 



142 TEE CRUISE OF THE " CACHALOT," 

numbers of whales found there must have taken place. 
But it must also be remembered, that in modern steam 
navigation certain well-defined courses are laid down, 
which vessels foUow from point to point with hardly 
any deviation therefrom, and that consequently little 
disturbance of the sea by their panting propellers takes 
place, except upon these marine pathways; as, for 
instance, in the Eed Sea, where the examination of 
thousands of log-books proved conclusively that, except 
upon straight lines drawn from point to point between 
Suez to Perim, the sea is practically unused to-day. 

The few Arab dhows and loitering surveying ships 
hardly count in this connection, of course. At any rate, 
we had not entered the straits, but were cruising between 
Car Nicobar and Junkseylon, when we *' met up " with 
a full-grown cachalot, as ugly a customer as one could 
wish. From nine a.m. till dusk the battle raged — for 
I have often noticed that unless you kill your whale 
pretty soon, he gets so wary, as well as fierce, that you 
stand a gaudy chance of being worn down yourselves 
before you settle , accounts with your adversary. This 
affair certainly looked at one time as if such would be 
the case with us ; but along about five p.m., to our great 
joy, we got him killed. The ejected food was in masses 
of enormous size, larger than any we had yet seen on 
the voyage, some of them being estimated to be of the 
size of our hatch-house, viz. 8 feet X 6 feet X 6 feet. 
The whale having been secured alongside, all hands 
were sent below, as they were worn out with the day's 
work. The third mate being ill, I had been invested 
with the questionable honour of standing his watch, on 
account of my sea experience and growing favour with 
the chief. Very bitterly did I resent the privilege at 




A VERY LARGE SPERM WHALE WAS LOCKED IN DEADLY CONFLICT 
WITH A SQUID 



WHICH TREATS OF THE KBAKEN. 143 

the time, I remember, being bo tired and sleepy that 
I knew not how to keep awake. I did not imagine that 
anything would happen to make mo prize that night's 
experience for the rest of my life, or I should have taken 
matters with a far better grace. 

At about eleven p.m. I was leaning over the lee rail, 
gazing steadily at the bright surface of the sea, where 
the intense radiance of the tropical moon made a broad 
path like a pavement of burnished silver. Eyes that 
saw not, mind only confusedly conscious of my sur- 
roundings, were mine ; but suddenly I started to my feet 
with an exclamation, and stared with all my might at 
the strangest sight I ever saw. There was a violen' 
commotion in the sea right where the moon's rays 
were concentrated, so great that, remembering our 
position, I was at first inclined to alarm all hands ; for 
I had often heard of volcanic islands suddenly lifting 
their heads from the depths below, or disappearing in 
a moment, and, with Sumatra's chain of active vol- 
canoes so near, I felt doubtful indeed of what was now 
happening. Getting the night-glasses out of the cabin 
scuttle, where they were always hung in readiness, I 
focussed them on the troubled spot, perfectly satisfied 
by a short examination that neither volcano nor earth- 
quake had anything to do with what was going on ; 
yet BO vast were the forces engaged that I might well 
have been excused for my first supposition. A very 
large sperm whale was locked in deadly conflict with 
a cuttle-fish, or squid, almost as large as himself, 
whose interminable tentacles seemed to enlace the whole 
of his great body. The head of the whale especially 
seemed a perfect net-work of writhing arms — naturally, 
I suppose, for it appeared as if the whale had the tail 



144 THE CRUISE OF THE " CACHALOT:* 

part of the mollusc in his jaws, and, in a husiness-like, 
methodical way, was sawing through it. By the side of 
the black columnar head of the whale appeared the head 
of the great squid, as awful an object as one could well 
imagine even in a fevered dream. Judging as carefully 
as possible, I estimated it to be at least as large as one 
of our pipes, which contained three hundred and fifty 
gallons ; but it may have been, and probably was, a good 
deal larger. The eyes were very remarkable from their 
size and blackness, which, contrasted with the livid 
whiteness of the head, made their appearance all the 
more striking. They were, at least, a foot in diameter, 
and, seen under such conditions, looked decidedly eerie 
and hobgoblin-like. All around the combatants were 
numerous sharks, like jackals round a lion, ready to 
share the feast, and apparently assisting in the destruc- 
tion of the huge cephalopod. So the titanic struggle 
went on, in perfect silence as far as we were concerned, 
because, even had there been any noise, our distance 
from the scene of conflict would not have permitted us 
to hear it. 

Thinking that such a sight ought not to be missed 
by the captain, I overcame my dread of him sufficiently 
to call him, and tell him of what was taking place. 
He met my remarks with such a furious burst of anger 
at my daring to disturb him for such a cause, that I fled 
precipitately on deck again, having the remainder of the 
vision to myself, for none of the others cared sufficiently 
for such things to lose five minutes' sleep in witnessing 
them. The conflict ceased, the sea resumed its placid 
calm, and nothing remained to tell of the fight but 
a strong odour of fish, as of a bank of seaweed left by 
the tide in the blazing sun. Eight bells struck, and I 



WniCn TREATS OF THE KRAKEN. 145 

went below to a troubled sleep, wherein all the awful 
monsters that an over-excited brain could conjure up 
pursued me through the gloomy caves of ocean, or 
mocked my pigmy efforts to escape. 

The occasions upon which these gigantic cuttle-fish 
appear at the sea surface must, I think, be very rare. 
From their construction, they appear fitted only to grope 
among the rocks at the bottom of the ocean. Their mode 
of progression is backward, by the forcible ejection of a 
jet of water from an orifice in the neck, beside the rectum 
or cloaca. Consequently their normal position is head- 
downward, and with tentacles spread out like the ribs of 
an umbrella — eight of them at least ; the two long ones, 
like the antennaD of an insect, rove unceasingly around, 
seeking prey. 

The imagination can hardly picture a more terrible 
object than one of these huge monsters brooding in the 
ocean depths, the gloom of his surroundings increased 
by the inky fluid (sepia) which he secretes in copious 
quantities, every cup-shaped disc, of the hundreds with 
which the restless tentacles are furnished, ready at the 
slightest touch to grip whatever is near, not only by 
suction, but by the great claws set all round within its 
circle. And in the centre of this net-work of living traps 
is the chasm-like mouth, with its enormous parrot-beak, 
ready to rend piecemeal whatever is held by the tentaculae. 
The very thought of it makes one's flesh crawl. Well 
did Michelet term them " the insatiable nightmares of 
the sea." 

Yet, but for them, how would such great creatures as 
the sperm whale be fed ? Unable, from their bulk, to 
capture small fish except by accident, and, by the absence 
of a sieve of baleen, precluded from subsisting upon the 

L 



146 TEE CRUISE OF TEE " CACEALOTr 

tiny Crustacea which support the Mysticetas, the cachalots 
seem to be confined for their diet to cuttle-fish, and, from 
their point of view, the bigger the latter are the better. 
How big they may become in the depths of the sea, no 
man knoweth ; but it is unlikely that even the vast speci- 
mens seen are full- sized, since they have only come to 
the surface under abnormal conditions, like the one 
I have attempted to describe, who had evidently been 
dragged up by his relentless foe. 

Creatures like these, who inhabit deep waters, and do 
not need to come to the surface by the exigencies of their 
existence, necessarily present many obstacles to accurate 
investigation of their structure and habits ; but, from the 
few specimens that have been obtained of late years, 
fairly comprehensive details have been compiled, and 
may be studied in various French and German works, of 
which the Natural History Museum at South Kensington 
possesses copies. These, through the courtesy of the 
authorities in charge, are easily accessible to students 
who wish to prosecute the study of this wonderful branch 
of the great moUusca family. 

"When we commenced to cut in our whale next morn- 
ing, the sea was fairly alive with fish of innumerable 
kinds, while a vast host of sea-birds, as usual, waited 
impatiently for the breaking-up of the huge carcass, 
which they knew would afford them no end of a feast. 
An untoward accident, which happened soon after the 
work was started, gave the waiting myriads immense 
satisfaction, although the unfortunate second mate, whose 
slip of the spade was responsible, came in for a hurricane 
of vituperation from the enraged skipper. It was in 
detaching the case from the head — always a work of 
difficulty, and requiring great precision of aim. Just as 



WHICH TREATS OF THE KRAKEN. 147 

Mr. Cruce made a powerful thrust with his keen tool, the 
vessel rolled, and the blow, missing the score in which he 
was cutting, fell upon the case instead, piercing its side. 
For a few minutes the result was unnoticed amidst the 
wash of the ragged edges of the cut, but presently a long 
Btreak of white, wax-like pieces floating astern, and a 
tremendous commotion among the birds, told the story. 
The liquid spermaceti was leaking rapidly from the case, 
turning solid as it got into the cool water. Nothing 
could be done to stop the waste, which, as it was a large 
whale, was not less than twenty barrels, or about two 
tmis of pure spermaceti. An accident of this kind never 
failed to make our skipper almost unbearable in his 
temper for some days afterwards ; and, to do him justice. 
he did not discriminate very carefully as to who felt his 
resentment besides its immediate cause. 

Therefore we had all a rough time of it while his angry 
fit lasted, which was a whole week, or until all was ship- 
shape again. Meanwhile we were edging gradually 
through the Malacca Straits and around the big island 
of Borneo, never going very near the land on account of 
the great and numerous dangers attendant upon coast- 
ing in those localities to any but those continually 
engaged in such a business. 

Indeed, all navigation in those seas to sailing vessels 
is dangerous, and requires the greatest care. Often we 
were obliged at a minute's notice to let go the anchor, 
although out of sight of land, some rapid current being 
found carrying us swiftly towards a shoal or race, where 
we might come to grief. Yet there was no fuss or hurry, 
the same leisurely old system was continued, and worked 
as well as ever. But it was not apparent why we 
were threading the tortuous and difficult waters of the 



148 TEE CRUISE OF TEE " CACEALOT.* 

Indian Archipelago. No whales of any kind were seen 
for at least a month, although, from our leisurely mode 
of sailing, it was evident that they were looked for. 

An occasional native craft came alongside, desirous 
of bartering fish, which we did not want, being able to 
catch all we needed as readily almost as they were. 
Fruit and vegetables we could not get at such distances 
from land, for the small canoes that lie in wait for 
passing ships do not of course venture far from home. 



( 149 ) 



CHAPTER XIIL 

OFF TO THE JIPAN OROUNDg. 

Ybrt tedious and trying was our passage northward, 
ulthough every effort was made by the skipper to expedite 
it. Nothing of advantage to our cargo was seen for a 
long time, which, although apparently what was to be 
expected, did not improve Captain Slocum's temper. 
But, to the surprise of all, when we had arrived off the 
beautiful island of Hong Kong, to which we approached 
closely, we ** raised " a grand sperm whale. 

Many fishing-junks were in sight, busily plying their 
trade, and at any other time we should have been much 
interested in the quaint and cunning devices by which 
the patient, wily Chinaman succeeds so admirably as a 
fisherman. Our own fishing, for the time being, absorbed 
all our attention — the more, perhaps, that we had for so 
long been unable to do anything in that line. After the 
usual preliminaries, we were successful in getting fast to 
the great creature, who immediately showed fight. So 
skilful and wary did he prove that Captain Slocum, 
growing impatient at our manoeuvring with no result, 
himself took the field, arriving on the scene with the air 
of one who comes to see and conquer without more delay. 
He brought with him a weapon which I have not hitherto 
mentioned, because none of the harpooners could be 



150 TEE CLUISE OF THE "CACHALOT:' 

induced to use it, and consequently it had not been much 
in evidence. Theoretically, it was an ideal tool for such 
work, its chief drawback being its cumbrousness. It was 
known as " Pierce's darting gun," being a combination 
of bomb-gun and harpoon, capable of being darted at the 
whale like a plain harpoon. Its construction was simple ; 
indeed, the patent was a very old one. A tube of brass, 
thickening towards the butt, at which was a square 
chamber firmly welded to a socket for receiving the pole, 
formed the gun itself. Within the chamber aforesaid a 
nipple protruded from the base of the tube, and in line 
with it. The trigger was simply a flat bit of steel, like 
a piece of clock spring, which was held down by the 
hooked end of a steel rod long enough to stick out beyond 
the muzzle of the gun three or four inches, and held in 
position by two flanges at the butt and muzzle of the 
barrel. On the opposite side of the tube were two more 
flanges, close together, into the holes of which was inserted 
the end of a specially made harpoon, having an eye 
twisted in its shank through which the whale line was 
spliced. The whole machine was fitted to a neat pole, 
and strongly secured to it by means of a ** gun warp," 
or short piece of thin line, by which it could be hauled 
back into the boat after being darted at a whale. To 
prepare this weapon for use, the barrel was loaded with 
a charge of powder and a bomb similar to those used in 
the shoulder-guns, the point of which just protruded 
from the muzzle. An ordinary percussion cap was 
placed upon the nipple, and the trigger cocked by placing 
the trigger-rod in position. The harpoon, with the line 
attached, was firmly set into the socketed flanges pre- 
pared for it, and the whole arrangement was then ready 
to be darted at the whale in the usual way. 



OFF TO THE JAPAN GROUNDS. 161 

Supposing the aim to be good and the force sufficient, 
the harpoon would penetrate the blubber until the end 
of the trigger-rod was driven backwards by striking the 
blubber, releasing the trigger and firing the gun. Thus 
the whale would be harpooned and bomb-lanced at the 
same time, and, supposing everything to work satis- 
factorily, very little more would be needed to finish him. 
But the weapon was so cumbersome and awkward, and 
the harpooners stood in such awe of it, that in the majority 
of cases the whale was either missed altogether or the 
harpoon got such slight hold that the gun did not go off^ 
the result being generally disastrous. 

In the present case, however, the " Pierce " gun was. 
in the hands of a man by no means nervous, and above- 
criticism or blame in case of failure. So when he sailed- 
in to the attack, and delivered his "swashing blow," 
the report of the gun was immediately heard, proving 
conclusively that a successful stroke had been made. 

It had an instantaneous and astonishing effect. The- 
sorely-wounded monster, with one tremendous expira- 
tion, rolled over and over swift as thought towards^ 
his aggressor, literally burying the boat beneath his 
vast bulk. Now, one would have thought surely, upon 
seeing this, that none of that boat's crew would ever 
have been seen again. Nevertheless, strange as it may 
appear, out of that seething lather of foam, all six 
heads emerged again in an instant, but on the other side 
of the great creature. How any of them escaped 
instant violent death was, and from the nature of the 
case must ever remain, an unravelled mystery, for the 
boat was crumbled into innumerable fragments, and 
the three hundred fathoms of line, in a perfect maze of 
entanglement, appeared to be wrapped about the writhing 



152 TRE CRUISE OF TEE '* CACHALOT/' 

trunk of the whale. Happily, there were two boats dis- 
engaged, so that they were able very promptly to rescue 
the sufferers from their perilous position in the boiling 
vortex of foam by which they were surrounded. Mean- 
while, the remaining boat had an easy task. The shot 
delivered by the captain had taken deadly effect, the 
bomb having entered the creature's side low down, 
directly abaft the pectoral fin. It must have exploded 
within the cavity of the bowels, from its position, causing 
such extensive injuries as to make even that vast animal's 
death but a matter of a few moments. Therefore, we 
did not run any unnecessary risks, but hauled off to a 
safe distance and quietly watched the death-throes. 
They were so brief, that in less than ten minutes from 
the time of the accident we were busy securing the line 
through the flukes of our prize. 

The vessel was an unusually long time working up 
to us, so slow, in fact, that Mr. Count remarked, criti- 
cally, " Shouldn't wonder if th* ole man ain't hurt ; 
they're taking things so all-fired easy." By the time 
she had reached us, we had a good few visitors around 
us from the fishing fleet, who caused us no little anxiety. 
The Chinese have no prejudices ; they would just as soon 
steal a whale as a herring, if the conveyance could be 
effected without more trouble or risk to their own yellow 
skins. If it involved the killing of a few foreign devils 
— well, so much to the good. The ship, however, arrived 
before the fishermen had decided upon any active steps, 
and we got our catch alongside without any delay. The 
truth of Mr. Count's forecast was verified to the hilt, 
for we found that the captain was so badly bruised 
about the body that he was unable to move, while one 
of the hands a Portuguese, was injured internally, and 



OFF TO THE JAPAN GROUNDS, 153 

seemed very bad indeed. Had any one told us that 
morning that we should be sorry to see Captain Slocum 
with sore bones, we should have scoffed at the notion, 
and some of us would probably have said that we should 
like to have the opportunity of making him smart. But 
under the present circumstances, with some hundreds 
of perfectly ruthless wretches hovering around us, 
looking with longing eyes at the treasure we had along- 
side, we could not help remembering the courage and 
resource so often shown by the skipper, and wished with 
all our hearts that we could have the benefit of them 
now. As soon as dinner was over, we all ** turned to " 
with a will to get the whale cut in. None of us required 
to be told that to lay all night with that whale alongside 
would be extremely unhealthy for us, great doubt existing 
as to whether any of us would see morning dawn again. 
There was, too, just a possibility that when the carcass, 
stripped of its blubber, was cut adrift, those ravenous 
crowds would fasten upon it, and let us go in peace. 

All hands, therefore, worked like Trojans. There 
was no need to drive us, nor was a single harsh word 
spoken. Nothing was heard but the almost incessant 
clatter of the windlass pawls, abrupt monosyllabic 
orders, and the occasional melancholy wail of a gannet 
overhead. No word had been spoken on the subject 
among us, yet somehow we all realized that we were 
working for a large stake — no less than our lives. What ! 
says somebody, within a few miles of Hong Kong ? 
Oh yes ; and even within Hong Kong harbour itself, if 
opportunity offers. Let any man go down the wharf at 
Hong Kong after sunset, and hail a sampan from the 
hundreds there that are waiting to be hired. Hardly 
will the summons have left his lips before a white 



154 TEE CRUISE OF TEE " CACEALOT." 

policeman will be at his side, note-book in hand, in- 
quiring his name and ship, and taking a note of the 
sampan's number with the time of his leaving the wharf. 
Nothing perfunctory about the job either. Let but 
these precautions be omitted, and the chances that the 
passenger (if he have aught of value about him) will 
ever arrive at his destination are almost nil. 

So good was the progress made that by five p.m. we 
were busy at the head, while the last few turns of the 
windlass were being taken to complete the skinning of 
the body. With a long pent-up shout that last piece 
was severed and swung inboard, as the huge mass of 
reeking flesh floated slowly astern. As it drifted away 
we saw the patient watchers who had been waiting con- 
verging upon it from all quarters, and our hopes rose 
high. But there was no slackening of our efforts to get 
in the head. By the time it was dark we managed to 
get the junk on board, and by the most extraordinary 
efforts lifted the whole remainder of the head high 
enough to make sail and stand off to sea. The wind 
was off the land, the water smooth, and no swell on, so 
we took no damage from that tremendous weight surging 
by our side, though, had the worst come to the worst, we 
could have cut it adrift. 

When morning dawned we hove-to, the land being 
only dimly visible astern, and finished taking on board 
our ** head matter " without further incident. The 
danger past, we were all well pleased that the captain 
was below, for the work proceeded quite pleasantly under 
the genial rule of the mate. Since leaving port we had 
not felt so comfortable, the work, with all its disagree- 
ables, seeming as nothing now that we could do it 
without fear and trembling. Alas for poor Jemmy ! — as 



OFF TO THE JAPAN GROUNDS. 165 

we always persisted in calling him from inability to 
pronounce his proper name — his case was evidently 
hopeless. His fellows did their poor best to comfort his 
fast-fleeting hours, one alter another murmuring to him 
the prayers of the Church, which, although they did 
not understand them, they evidently believed most firmly 
to have some marvellous power to open the gates of 
paradise and cleanse the sinner. Notwithstanding the 
grim fact that their worship was almost pure super- 
stition, it was far more in accordance with the fitness 
of things for a dying man's surroundings than such 
scenes as I have witnessed in the forecastles of merchant 
ships wliCn poor sailors lay a-dying. I remember well 
once, when I was second officer of a large passenger 
ship, going in the forecastle as she lay at anchor at St. 
Helena, to see a sick man. Half the crew were drunk, 
and the beastly kennel in which they lived was in a thick 
fog of tobacco- smoke and the stale stench of rum. Eibald 
songs, quarrelling, and blasphemy made a veritable 
pandemonium of the place. I passed quietly through it 
to the sick man's bunk, and found him — dead ! He had 
passed away in the midst of that, but the horror of it did 
not seem to impress his bemused shipmates much. 

Here, at any rate, there was quiet and decorum, 
while all that could be done for the poor sufferer (not 
much, from ignorance of how he was injured) was done. 
He was released from his pain in the afternoon of the 
second day after the accident, the end coming suddenly 
and peacefully. The same evening, at sunset, the body, 
neatly sewn up in canvas, with a big lump of sandstone 
secured to the feet, was brought on deck, laid on a 
hatch at the gangway, and covered with the blue, star- 
spangled American Jack. Then aW hands were mustered 



156 THE CRUISE OF THE ** CACHALOTS 

in the waist, the ship's bell was tolled, and the ensign 
run up halfway. 

The captain was still too ill to be moved, so the 
mate stepped forward with a rusty old Common Prayer- 
book in his hands, whereon my vagrant fancy imme- 
diately fastened in frantic endeavour to imagine how 
it came to be there. The silence of death was over all. 
True, the man was but a unit of no special note among 
us, but death had conferred upon him a brevet rank, in 
virtue of which he dominated every thought. It seemed 
strange to me that we who faced death so often and 
variously, until natural fear had become deadened by 
custom, should, now that one of our number lay a 
rapidly-corrupting husk before us, be so tremendously 
impressed by the simple, inevitable fact. I suppose it 
was because none of us were able to realize the imma- 
nence of Death until we saw his handiwork. Mr. Count 
opened the book, fumbling nervously among the un- 
familiar leaves. Then he suddenly looked up, his 
weather-scarred face glowing a dull brick-red, and said, 
in a low voice, " This thing's too many fer me ; kin any 
of ye do it ? Ef not, I guess we'll hev ter take it as 
read." There was no response for a moment ; then I 
stepped forward, reaching out my hand for the book. Its 
contents were familiar enough to me, for in happy pre- 
arab days I had been a chorister in the old Lock Chapel, 
Harrow Eoad, and had borne my part in the service so 
often that I think even now I could repeat the greater 
part of it memoriter. Mr. Count gave it me without 
a word, and, trembling like a leaf, I turned to the 
"Burial Service," and began the majestic sentences, "I 
am the Eesurrection and the Life, saith the Lord." I 
did not know my own voice as the wonderful words 



OFF TO THE JAPAN OJROUNDS. 157 

sounded clearly in the still air ; but if ever a small body 
of soul-hardened men felt the power of God, it was then. 
At the words, "We therefore commit his body to the 
deep,** I paused, and, the mate making a sign, two of 
the harpooners tilted the hatch, from which the remains 
slid off into the unknown depths with a dull splash. 
Several of the dead man's compatriots covered their 
faces, and murmured prayers for the repose of his soul, 
while the tears trickled through their horny fingers. But 
matters soon resumed their normal course ; the tension 
over, back came the strings of life into position again, 
to play the same old tunes and discords once more. 

The captured whale made an addition to our cargo 
of one hundred and ten barrels — a very fair haul indeed. 
The harpooners were disposed to regard this capture as 
auspicious upon opening the North Pacific, where, in 
spite of the time we had spent, and the fair luck we 
had experienced in the Indian Ocean, we expected to 
make the chief portion of our cargo. 

Our next cruising-ground is known to whalemen as the 
** Coast of Japan *' ground, and has certainly proved in 
the past the most prolific fishery of sperm whales in the 
whole world. I am inclined now to believe that there are 
more and larger cachalots to be found in the Southern 
Hemisphere, between the parallels of 33° and 50° South ; 
but there the drawback of heavy weather and moun- 
tainous seas severely handicaps the fishermen. 

It is somewhat of a misnomer to call the Coast of 
Japan ground by that name, since to be successful you 
should not sight Japan at all, but keep out of range of 
the cold current that sweeps right across the Pacific, 
skirting the Philippines, along the coasts of the Japanese 
islands as far as the Kuriles, and then returns to the 



158 THE CRVISE OF THE " CACHALOT:* 

eastward again to the southward of the Aleutian Archi- 
pelago. The greatest number of whales are always 
found in the vicinity of the Bonin and Volcano groups 
of islands, which lie in the eddy formed by the north- 
ward bend of the mighty current before mentioned. 
This wonderful ground was first cruised by a London 
whale-ship, the Syren, in 1819, when the English branch 
of the sperm whale-fishery was in its prime, and London 
skippers were proud of the fact that one of their number, 
in the Emilia, had thirty-one years before first ventured 
around Cape Horn in pursuit of the cachalot. 

After the advent of the Syren, the Bonins became 
the favourite fishing-ground for both Americans and 
British, and for many years the catch of oil taken 
from these teeming waters averaged four thousand tuns 
annually. That the value of the fishery was main- 
tained at so high a level for over a quarter of a century 
was doubtless due to the fact that there was a long, seK- 
imposed close season, during which the whales were quite 
unmolested. Nothing in the migratory habits of this 
whale, so far as has ever been observed, would have pre- 
vented a profitable fishing all the year round; but custom, 
stronger even than profit, ordained that whale-ships 
should never stay too long upon one fishing-ground, 
but move on farther until the usual round had been 
made, unless the vessel were filled in the mean time. 

Of course, there are whales whose habits lead them 
at certain seasons, for breeding purposes, to frequent 
various groups of islands, but the cachalot seems to 
be quite impartial in his preferences; if he "uses" 
around certain waters, he is just as likely to be found 
there in July as January. 

The Bonins, too, form an ideal calling-place, from 



OFF TO TEE JAPAN GROUNDS. 159 

the whaling captain's point of view. Peel Island, tlie 
principal one of the cluster, has a perfect harhour in 
Port Lloyd, where a vessel can not only lie in comfort, 
sheltered from almost every wind that blows, but where 
provisions, wood, and water are i)lentiful. There is no 
inducement, or indeed room, for desertion, and the place 
is healthy. It is colonized by Japs from the kingdom so 
easily reached to the westward, and the busy little people, 
after their manner, make a short stay very agreeable. 

Once clear of the southern end of Formosa we had 
quite a rapid run to the Bonins, carrying a press of sail 
day and night, as the skipper was anxious to arrive 
there on account of his recent injuries. He was still 
very lame, and he feared that some damage might have 
been done to him of which he was ignorant. Besides, 
it was easy to see that he did not altogether like anybody 
else being in charge of his ship, no matter how good 
they were. Such was the expedition we made that we 
arrived at Port Lloyd twelve days after clearing up our 
last whale. Very beautiful indeed the islands appeared, 
with their bold, steep sides clad in richest green, or, 
where no vegetation appeared, worn into a thousand 
fantastic shapes by the sea or the mountain torrents 
carving away the lava of which they were all composed. 
For the whole of the islands were volcanic, and Port 
Lloyd itself is nothing more than the crater of a vast 
volcano, which in some tremendous convulsion of nature 
has sunk from its former high estate low enough to 
become a haven for ships. 

I have said that it was a perfect harbour, but there 
is no doubt that getting in or out requires plenty of 
nerve as well as seamanship. There was so little room, 
and the eddying flaws of wind under the high land were 



160 TEE CRUISE OF THE "CACHALOTS 

SO baffling, that at various times during our passage in 
it appeared as if nothing could prevent us from getting 
stuck upon some of the adjacent hungry-looking coral 
reefs. Nothing of the kind happened, however, and we 
came comfortably to an anchor near three other whale- 
ships which were already there. They were the Diego 
Ramirez, of Nantucket ; the Coronel, of Providence, Rhode 
Island ; and the Grampus, of New Bedford. These were 
the first whale-ships we had yet seen, and it may be 
imagined how anxious we felt to meet men with whom 
we could compare notes and exchange yarns. It might 
be, too, that we should get some news of that world 
which, as far as we were concerned, might as well have 
been at the other extremity of the solar system for the 
last year, so completely isolated had we been. 

The sails were hardly fast before a boat from each 
of the ships was alongside with their respective skippera 
on board. The extra exertion necessary to pilot the 
ship in had knocked the old man up, in his present weak 
state, and he had gone below for a short rest ; so the 
three visitors dived down into th« stufiy cabin, all 
anxious to interview the latest comer. Considerate 
always, Mr. Count allowed us to have the remainder of 
the day to ourselves, so we set about entertaining our 
company. It was no joke twelve of them coming upon 
us all at once, and babel ensued for a short time. They 
knew the system too well to expect refreshments, so we 
had not to apologize for having nothing to set before 
them. They had not come, however, for meat and drink, 
but for talk. And talk we did, sometimes altogether, 
sometimes rationally; but I doubt whether any of us 
had ever enjoyed talking so much before. 



( lUl > 



CHAPTER XIV. 

LIBERTY DAT — AND AFTER. 

There is generally cuirent among seamen a notion that 
all masters of ships are bound by law to give their 
crews twenty-four hourt* Jiberty and a portion of their 
wages to spend every three months, if they are in port. 
I have never heard any authority quoted for this, and 
do not know what foundation there is for such a belief, 
although the practice is usually adhered to in English 
ships. But American whale-ships apparently know no 
law, except the will of their commanders, whose con- 
venience is always the first consideration. Thus, we 
had now been afloat for well over a year, during which 
time, except for our foraging excursions at the Cocos 
and Aldabra, we had certainly known no liberty for a 
whole day. 

Our present port being one where it was impossible 
to desert without the certainty of prompt recapture, 
with subsequent suffering altogether disproportionate to 
the offence, we were told that one watch at a time 
would be allowed their liberty for a day. So we of the 
port watch made our simple preparations, received 
twenty-five cents each, and were turned adrift on the 
beach to enjoy ourselves. We had our liberty, but we 



162 TEE CRUISE OF TEE " CACEALOT^ 

didn't know what to do with it. There was a native 
town and a couple of low groggeries kept by Chinamen, 
where some of my shipmates promptly invested a portion 
of their wealth in some horrible liquor, the smell of 
which was enough to make an ordinary individual sick. 
There was no place apparently where one could get a 
meal, so that the prospect of our stay ashore lasting a 
day did not seem very great. I was fortunate enough, 
however, to foregather with a Scotchman who was a 
beach-comber, and consequently **knew the ropes." I 
dare say he was an unmitigated blackguard whenever he 
got the chance, but he was certainly on his best 
behaviour with me. He took me into the country a bit 
to see the sights, which were such as most of the Pacific 
islands afford. Wonderful indeed were the fantastic 
rocks, twisted into innumerable grotesque shapes, and, 
along the shores, hollowed out into caverns of all sizes, 
some large enough to shelter an army. He was quite 
familiar with the natives, understanding enough of their 
queer lingo to get along. By his friendly aid we got 
some food — yams, and fish cooked in native fashion, 
i.e. in heated holes in the ground, for which the friendly 
Kanakas would take no payment, although they looked 
murderous enough to be cannibals. It does not do to go 
by looks always. 

Well, after a long ramble, the Scotchman and I laid 
our weary bodies down in the shade of a big rock, and 
had a grand sleep, waking up again a little before 
sunset. We hastened down to the beach off the town, 
where all my watchmates were sitting in a row, like 
lost sheep, waiting to be taken on board again. They 
had had enough of liberty; indeed, such liberty as that 
was hardly worth having. It seems hardly credible, 



LIBERTY DAY— AND AFTER, 163 

but we were actually glad to get on board again, it was 
80 miserable ashore. The natives were most unsociable 
at the port, and we could not make ourselves under- 
stood, so there was not much fun to be had. Even 
those who were inclined to drink had too little for a 
spree, which I was not sorry for, since doubtless a very 
unpleasant reception would have awaited them had 
they come on board drunk. 

Next day the starboard watch went on liberty, while 
we who had received our share were told off to spend 
the day wooding and watering. In this most pleasant 
of occupations (when the weather is fine) I passed a 
much more satisfactory time than when wandering 
about with no objective, an empty pocket, and a hungry 
belly. No foremast hand has ever enjoyed his op- 
portunities of making the acquaintance of his various 
visiting places more than I have ; but the circumstances 
attendant upon one's leave must be a little favourable, 
or I would much rather stay aboard and fish. Our task 
was over for the day, a goodly store of wood and casks 
of water having been shipped. We were sitting down 
to supper, when, in answer to a hail from the beach, 
we were ordered to fetch the liberty men. When we 
got to them, there was a pretty how-d'ye-do. All of them 
were more or less drunk, some exceedingly quarrelsome. 
Now, Mistah Jones was steering our boat, looking 
as little like a man to take sauce from a drunken 
sailor as you could imagine. Most of the transformed 
crowd ya-hooing on the beach had felt the weight of his 
shoulder-of-mutton fist, yet so utterly had prudence for- 
saken them that, before we came near them, they were 
abusing him through all the varied gamut of filthy 
language they possessed. My democratic sentiments 



164 THE CBUISE OF TEE " CACEALOTr 

are deeply seated, but I do believe in authority, and 
respect for it being rigidly enforced, so this uncalled- 
for scene upset me, making me feel anxious that the 
gibbering fools might get a lesson. They got one. 

Goliath stood like a tower, his eyes alone betraying 
the fierce anger boiling within. When we touched the 
beach, his voice was mild and gentle as a child's, his 
movements calm and deliberate. As soon as we had 
beached the boat he stepped ashore, and in two strides 
was in the middle of the snarling group. Further 
parley ceased at once. Snatching the loudest of them 
by the breast of his shirt with his right hand, another 
one by the collar with his left, he flung himself back- 
wards towards the boat, knocking the interveners right 
and left. But a protruding fragment of rock caught 
his heel, bringing him with his captives to the ground 
in a writhing mass. The rest, maddened beyond 
restraint of fear, flung themselves upon the prostrate 
man, the glimmer of more than one knife-blade appear- 
ing. Two of us from the boat — one with the tiller, the 
other brandishing a paddle — rushed to the rescue ; but 
before we arrived the giant had heaved off his assailants, 
and, with no other weapons than his bare hands, was 
doing terrific execution among them. Not knowing, I 
suppose, whether we were friendly to him or not, he 
shouted to us to keep away, nor dare to interfere. 
There was no need. Disregarding such trifles as a few 
superficial cuts — not feeling them perhaps — he so un- 
mercifully mauled that crowd that they howled again 
for mercy. The battle was brief and bloody. Before 
hostilities had lasted five minutes, six of the aggressors 
were stretched insensible ; the rest, comprising as many 
more, were pleading for mercy, completely sober. Such 



LIBERTY DAY— AND AFTER. 165 

prowess on the part of one man against twelve seems 
hardly credible ; but it must be remembered that Goliath 
fought, with all the moral force of the ship's officers 
behind him, against a disorganized crowd without back- 
bone, who would never have dared to face him but for 
the temporary mania induced by the stuff they had 
drunk. It was a conflict between a lion and a troop of 
jackals, whereof the issue was never in doubt as long as 
lethal weapons were wanting. 

Standing erect among the cowering creatures, the 
great negro looked every inch a media3val hero. In a 
stern voice be bade his subjugated enemies to get into 
the boat, assisting those to do so who were too badly 
hurt to rise. Then we shoved off for the ship — a 
sorrowful gang indeed. 

As I bent to my oar, I felt very sorry for what had 
happened. Here were half the crew guilty of an act of 
violence upon an officer, which, according to the severe 
code under which we lived, merited punishment as 
painful as could be inflicted, and lasting for the rest of 
the voyage. Whatever form that punishment might 
take, those of us who were innocent would be almost 
equal sufferers with the others, because discrimination 
in the treatment between watch and watch is always 
difficult, and in our case it was certain that it would 
not be attempted. Except as regarded physical violence, 
we might all expect to share alike. Undoubtedly things 
looked very unpleasant. My gloomy cogitations were 
abruptly terminated by the order to " unrow " — we were 
alongside. Somehow or other all hands managed to 
scramble on board, and assist in hoisting the boat up. 

As soon as she was secured we slunk away forward, 
but we had hardly got below before a tremendous 



166 TEE CBUISE OF THE " CACHALOT,-" 

Bummons; from Goliath brought us all aft again at the 
double quick. Most of the fracas had been witnessed 
from the ship, so that but a minute or two was needed 
to explain how or why it begun. Directly that explana- 
tion had been supplied by Mistah Jones, the order was 
issued for the culprits to appear. 

I have before noticed how little love was lost between 
the skipper and his officers, Goliath having even once 
gone so far as to give me a very emphatic opinion of his 
about the "old man" of a most unflattering nature. 
And had such a state of things existed on board an 
English ship, the crew would simply have taken charge, 
for they would have seen the junior officers flouted, 
snubbed, and jeered at ; and, of course, what they saw 
the captain do, they would not be slow to improve on. 
Many a promising young officer's career has been 
blighted in this way by the feminine spite of a foolish 
man unable to see that if the captain shows no respect 
to his officers, neither will the crew, nor obedience either. 

But in an American ship, so long as an officer 
remains an officer, he must be treated as such by every 
man, under pain of prompt punishment. Yankee 
skippers have far too much nous to allow their hands 
to grow saucy in consequence of division among the 
after-guard. So now a sort of court-martial was held 
upon the unfortunates who had dared to attack Goliath, 
at which that sable hero might have been the apple of 
Captain Slocum's eye, so solicitous was he of Mistah 
Jones' honour and the reparation to be made. 

This sort of thing was right in his line. Naturally 
cruel, he seemed to thoroughly enjoy himself in the 
prospect of making human beings twist and writhe in 
pain. Nor would he be baulked of a jot of his pleasure. 



LIBERTY DAY — AND AFTER. 1G7 

Goliath approached him, and muttered a few words, 
meant, I felt sure, to appease him by letting him know 
how much they had sufifored at his strong hands ; but 
he turned upon the negro with a savage curse, bidding 
him be eilent Then every one of the culprits was 
stripped, aiivl secured to the lash-rail by the wrists ; 
scourges were made of cotton fish-line, knotted at 
intervals, and secured to a stout handle ; the harpooners 
were told ofif as executioners, and the flogging began. 
Perhaps it was necessary for the maintenance of 
discipline — certainly it was trivial compared with the 
practice, till recently, in our own army and navy; 
but I am glad to say that, compelled to witness it, I 
felt quite sick — physically sick — trembling so in every 
limb that my legs would not support me. It was not 
fear, for I had nothing to fear had I been ever such 
a coward. Whatever it was, I am not sorry either to 
have felt it or to own it, even while I fully admit that 
for some forms of wickedness nothing but the lash seems 
adequate punishment. 

Some of the victims fainted, not being in the best 
condition at the outset for undergoing so severe a trial ; 
but all were treated alike, buckets of salt water being 
flung over them. This drastic reviver, while adding to 
their pain, brought them all into a state of sufficient 
activity to get forward when they were released. Smart- 
ing and degraded, all their temporary bravado effectually 
banished, they were indeed pitiable objects, their deplor- 
able state all the harder to bear from its contrast to our 
recent pleasure when we entertained the visiting crews. 

Having completed our quantum of wood, water, and 
fresh provisions for the officers, we got under way 
again for the fishing grounds. I did not see how we 



168 TEE CRUISE OF TEE '' CACEALOT,'' 

could hope for a successful season, knowing the utterly 
despondent state of the crew, which even affected the 
officers, who, not so callous or cruel as the skipper, 
seemed to be getting rather tired of the constant drive 
and kick, now the normal condition of affairs. But the 
3kipper's vigilance was great. Whether he noted any sign 
of slackness or indifference on the part of his coadjutors 
or not, of course I cannot say, but he certainly seemed to 
put more vigour into his attentions than had been his 
wont, and so kept everybody up to the mark. 

Hitherto we had always had our fishing to ourselves ; 
we were now to see something of the ways of other men 
employed in the same manner. For though the general 
idea or plan of campaign against the whales is the same 
in all American whalers, every ship has some individual 
peculiarity of tactics, which, needless to say, are always 
far superior to those of any other ship. When we com- 
menced our cruise on this new ground, there were seven 
whalers in sight, all quite as keen on the chase as our- 
selves, so that I anticipated considerable sport of the 
liveliest kind should we ** raise " whales with such a 
fleet close at hand. 

But for a whole week we saw nothing but a grampus 
or so, a few loitering finbacks, and an occasional lean 
humpback bull certainly not worth chasing. On the 
seventh afternoon, however, I was in the main crow's- 
lest with the chief, when I noticed a ship to windward of 
us alter her course, keeping away three or four points 
on an angle that would presently bring her across our 
bows a good way ahead. I was getting pretty well 
versed in the tricks of the trade now, so I kept mum, 
but strained my eyes in the direction for which the other 
ship was steering. The chief was looking astern at some 



LIBERTY DAY— AND AFTER, 169 

finbacks, the look-out men forward were both staring 
to leeward, thus for a minute or so I had a small arc 
of the horizon to myself. The time was short, but 
it sufticed, and for the first time that vo3^age I had 
the privilege of ** raising" a sperm whale. My voice 
quivered with excitement as I uttered the war-whoop, 
"Ah blo-o-o-o-w ! " Round spun the mate on his heel, 
while the hands clustered like bees roused from their 
hive. ** Where away — where? '* gasped the mate. And I 
pointed to a spot about half a point on the lee bow, at 
the same time calling his attention to the fact that the 
stranger to windward was keeping away. In answer to 
the skipper's hurried queries from below, Mr. Count gave 
him the general outline of affairs, to which he replied 
by crowding every stitch of canvas on the vessel that 
was available. 

The spout I had seen was a good ten miles off, and, 
for the present, seemed to belong to a ** lone ** whale, 
as it was the only one visible. There was a good breeze 
blowing, as much, in fact, as we could carry all sail to, 
the old barky making a tremendous commotion as she 
blundered along under the unusual press of canvas. In 
the excitement of the race all our woes were forgotten ; 
we only thought of the possibility of the ship getting 
there first. We drew gradually nearer to the stranger, 
who, like us, was carrying all the sail he had got, but, 
being able to go a point or two free, was outsailing us. 

It was anybody's race as yet, though, when we heard 
the skipper's hail, " 'Way down from aloft ! " as he came 
up to take our place. The whale had sounded, appar- 
ently heading to leeward, so that the weather-gage 
held by our rival was not much advantage to him now. 
We ran on for another two miles, then shortened sail, 



170 TEE CRUISE OF THE ''CACHALOT:' 

and stood by to lower away the moment he should re- 
appear. Meanwhile another ship was working up from 
to leeward, having evidently noted our movements, or else, 
like the albatross, " smelt whale," no great distance to 
windward of him. Waiting for that whale to rise was one 
of the most exciting experiences we had gone through 
as yet, with two other ships so near. Everybody's 
nerves seemed strung up to concert pitch, and it was quite 
a relief when from half a dozen throats at once burst 
the cry, " There she white-waters ! Ah blo-o-o-o-w ! " 
Not a mile away, dead to leeward of us, quietly beating 
the water with the flat of his flukes, as if there was no 
such thing in the watery world as a whale-ship. Splash ! 
almost simultaneously went the four boats. Out we 
ihot from the ship, all on our mettle ; for was not the 
skipper's eye upon us from his lofty eerie, as well as the 
crew of the other ship, now not more than a mile away ? 
We seemed a terrible time getting the sails up, but the 
officers dared not risk our willingness to pull while they 
could be independent of us. 

By the time we were fairly off, the other ship's boats 
were coming like the wind, so that eight boats were 
now converging upon the unconscious monster. We 
fairly flew over the short, choppy sea, getting drenched 
with the flying spray, but looking out far more keenly 
at the other boats than at the whale. Up we came 
to him, Mr. Count's boat to the left, the other mate's 
boat to the right. Almost at the same moment the 
irons flew from the hands of the rival harpooners ; 
but while ours was buried to the hitches in the whale's 
side, the other man's just ploughed up the skin on the 
animal's back, as it passed over him and pierced our 
boat close behind the harpooner's leg. Not seeing what 



LIBERTY DAT — AND AFTER. 171 

had happened to his iron, or knowing that we were fast, 
the other harpooner promptly hurled his second iron, 
which struck solidly. It was a very pretty tangle, but 
our position was rather bad. The whale between us 
was tearing the bowels of the deep up in his rage and 
fear ; we were struggling frantically to get our sail down ; 
and at any moment that wretched iron through our 
upper strake might tear a plank out of us. Our chief, 
foaming at the mouth with rage and excitement, was 
screeching inarticulate blasphemy at the other mate, 
who, not knowing what was the matter, was yelling 
back all his copious vocabulary of abuse. I felt very 
glad the whale was between us, or there would surely 
have been murder done. At last, out drops the iron, 
leaving a jagged hole you could put your arm through. 
Wasn't Mr. Count mad ? I really thought he would 
split with rage, for it was impossible for us to go on 
with that hole in our bilge. The second mate came 
alongside and took our line as the whale was just com- 
mencing to sound, thus setting us free. We made at 
once for the other ship's ** fast " boat, and the compli- 
ments that had gone before were just casual conversation 
to what filled the air with dislocated language now. 
Presently both the champions cooled down a bit from 
want of breath, and we got our case stated. It was 
received with a yell of derision from the other side as a 
splendid effort of lying on our part ; because the first 
ship fast claims the whale, and such a prize as this one 
we were quarrelling about was not to be tamely yielded. 
However, as reason asserted her sway over Mr. Count, 
he quieted down, knowing full well that the state of the 
line belonging to his rival would reveal the truth when 
the whale rose again. Therefore we returned to the 



172 THE CRUISE OF THE '' CACHALOT.** 

ship, leaving our three boats busy waiting the whale's 
pleasure to rise again. When the skipper heard what 
had happened, he had his own boat manned, proceeding 
himself to the battle-field in expectation of complications 
presently. By the time he arrived upon the scene there 
were two more boats lying by, which had come up from 
the thu*d ship, mentioned as working up from to leeward. 
"Pretty fine ground this's got ter be ! " growled the old 
man. " Caint strike whale 'thout bein' crowded eout uv 
yer own propputty by a gang ov bunco steerers like 
this. Shall hev ter quit it, en keep a pawnshop." 

And still the whale kept going steadily down, down, 
down. Already he was on the second boat's lines, and 
taking them out faster than ever. Had we been alone, 
this persistence on his part, though annoying, would 
not have mattered much ; but, with so many others in 
company, the possibilities of complication, should we 
need to slip our end, were numerous. The ship kept 
near, and Mr. Count, seeing how matters were going, 
had hastily patched his boat, returning at once with 
another tub of line. He was but just in time to bend 
on, when to our great delight we saw the end slip from 
our rival's boat. This in no wise terminated his lien 
on the whale, supposing he could prove that he struck 
first, but it got him out of the way for the time. 

Meanwhile we were- running line faster than ever. 
There was an enormous length attached to the animal 
now — some twelve thousand feet — the weight of which 
was very great, to say nothing of the many " drogues " 
or ** stopwaters " attached to it at intervals. Judge, then, 
of my surprise when a shout of ** Blo-o-o-w ! " called my 
attention to the whale himself just breaking water about 
half a mile away. It was an awkward predicament; 



LIBERTY DAY — AND AFTER. 173 

for if we let go our end, the others would be on the 
whale immediately ; if we held on, we should certainly he 
dragged below in a twinkling ; and our disengaged boats 
could do nothing, for they had no line. Bat the difficulty 
soon settled itself. Out ran our end, leaving us bare of 
line as pleasure skififs. The new-comer, who had been 
prowling near, keeping a close watch upon us, saw our 
boat jump up when released from the weight. Off he 
flew like an arrow to the labouring leviathan, now a 
** free fish," except for such claims as the two first 
comers had upon, it, which claims are legally assessed, 
where no dispute arises. In its disabled condition, 
dragging so enormous a weight of line, it was but a few 
minutes before the fresh boat was fast, while we looked 
on helplessly, boiling with impotent rage. All that we 
could now hope for was the salvage of some of our line, 
a mile and a half of which, inextricably mixed up with 
about the same length of our rival's, was towing astern of 
the fast-expiring cachalot. 

So great had been the strain upon that hardly-used 
animal that he did not go into his usual *' flurry," but 
calmly expired without the faintest struggle. In the 
mean time two of our boats had been sent on board 
again to work the ship, while the skipper proceeded to 
try his luck in the recovery of his gear. On arriving at 
the dead whale, however, we found that he had rolled 
over and over beneath the water so many times that 
the line was fairly frapped round him, and the present 
possessors were m no mood to allow us the privilege of 
unrolling it. 

During the conversation we had drawn very near the 
carcass, so near, in fact, that one hand was holding the 
boat alongside the whale's ** small" by a bight of 



174 TEE CRUISE OF THE ''CACHALOT:' 

the line. I suppose the skipper's eagle eye must have 
caught sight of the trailing part of the line streaming 
beneath, for suddenly he plunged overboard, reappearing 
almost immediately with the line in his hand. He 
scrambled into the boat with it, cutting it from the 
whale at once, and starting his boat's crew hauling in. 

Then there was a hubbub again. The captain of 
the Narragansetty our first rival, protested vigorously 
against our monopoly of the line ; but in grim silence 
our skipper kept on, taking no notice of him, while we 
steadily hauled. Unless he of the Narragansett choose to 
fight for what he considered his rights, there was no help 
for him. And there was something in our old man's 
appearance eminently calculated to discourage aggression 
of any kind. 

At last, disgusted apparently with the hopeless turn 
affairs had taken, the Narragansett' s boats drew off, and 
returned on board their ship. Two of our boats had by 
this time accumulated a mountainous coil of line each, 
with which we returned to our own vessel, leaving the 
skipper to visit the present holder of the whale, the 
skipper of the John Hampden. 

What arrangements they made, or how they settled 
the Narragansett* s claim between them, I never knew, but 
I dare say there was a costly law-suit about it in New 
Bedford years after. 

This was not very encouraging for a start, nor did 
the next week see us do any better. Several times we 
saw other ships with whales alongside, but we got no 
show at all. Now, I had hoped a great deal from our 
cruise on these grounds, because I had heard whispers 
of a visit to the icy Sea of Okhotsk, and the prospect was 
to me a horrible one. I never did take any stock in 



LIBERTY DAT — AND AFTER, 175 

Arctic work. But if we made a good Reason on the 
Japan grounds, we should not go north, but gradually 
work down the Pacific again, on the other side, cruising 
as we went. 

Day after day went by without any fresh capture 
or even sight of fish, until I began to believe that the 
stories I had heard of the wonderful fecundity of the 
Coast of Japan waters were fables without foundation, 
in fact. Had I known what sort of fishing our next 
bout would be, I should not have been so eager to sight 
whales again. If this be not a platitude of the worst 
kind, I don't know the meaning of the word ; but, after 
all, platitudes have their uses, especially when you wart 
to state a fact baldly. 



176 THE CRUISE OF TEE ''CACHALOT.' 



CHAPTEB XV. 

WHICH COMES UNCOMFORTABLY NEAR BEING THE LAST. 

All unversed as I am in the finer shades of literary 
craftsmanship, there is great uncertainty in my mind 
whether it is good or bad ** art " to anticipate your next 
chapter by foreshadowing its contents ; but whether good 
or bad art, the remembrance of my miseries on the 
eventful occasion I wish to describe was so strong upon 
me as I wrote the last few lines of the previous chapter 
that I just had to let those few words leak out. 

Through all the vicissitudes of this strange voyage I 
had hitherto felt pretty safe, and as the last thing a man 
anticipates (if his digestion is all right) is the possibility 
of coming to grief himself, while fully prepared to see 
everybody else go under, so I had got to think that 
whoever got killed I was not to be — a very pleasing senti- 
ment, and one that carries a man far, enabling him to 
face dangers with a light heart which otherwise would 
make a nerveless animal of him. 

In this optimistic mood, then, I gaily flung myself 
into my place in the mate's boat one morning, as we were 
departing in chase of a magnificent cachalot that had 
been raised just after breakfast. There were no other 
vessels in sight — much to our satisfaction — the wind 



VNCOMFOItTABLY NEAR BEING TEE LAST. 177 

was light, with a cloudless sky, and the whale was 
dead to leeward of us. We sped along at a good rate 
towards our prospective victim, who was, in his leisurely 
enjoyment of life, calmly lolling on the surface, occasion- 
ally lifting his enormous tail out of water and letting it 
fall flat upon the surface with a hoom audible for miles. 

We were, as usual, first boat ; but, much to the mate's 
annoyance, when we were a short half-mile from the 
whale, our main-sheet parted. It became immediately 
necessary to roll the sail up, lest its flapping should alarm 
the watchful monster, and this delayed us sufficiently to 
allow the other boats to shoot ahead of us. Thus the 
second mate got fast some seconds before we arrived on 
the scene, seeing which we furled sail, unshipped the 
mast, and went in on him with the oars only. At first 
the proceedings were quite of the usual character, our 
3hief wielding his lance in most brilliant fashion, while 
not being fast to the animal allowed us much greater 
freedom in our evolutions ; but that fatal habit of the 
mate's — of allowing his boat to take care of herself so 
long as he was getting in some good home-thrusts — once 
more asserted itself. Although the whale was exceed- 
ingly vigorous, churning the sea into yeasty foam over 
an enormous area, there we wallowed close to him, right 
in the middle of the turmoil, actually courting disaster. 

He had just settled down for a moment, when, 
glancing over the gunwale, I saw his tail, like a vast 
shadow, sweeping away from us towards the second 
mate, who was laying off the other side of him. Before 
I bad time to think, the mighty mass of gristle leapt 
into the sunshine, curved back from us like a huge 
bow. Then with a roar it came at us, released from 
its tension of Heaven knows how many tons. Full on 



178 THE CEUISE OF TEE " CACHALOT,'* 

the broadside it struck us, sending every soul but me 
flying out of the wreckage as if fired from catapult?. 
I did not go because my foot was jammed somehow in 
the well of the boat, but the wrench nearly pulled my 
thigh-bone out of its socket. I had hardly released my 
foot, when, towering above me, came the colossal head 
of the great creature, as he ploughed through the 
bundle of debris that had just been a boat. There 
was an appalling roar of water in my ears, and darkness 
that might be felt all around. Yet, in the midst of it 
all, one thought predominated as clearly as if I had 
been turning it over in my mind in the quiet of my 
bunk aboard — ** What if he should swallow me ? " Nor 
to this day can I understand how I escaped the portals 
of his gullet, which of course gaped wide as a church 
door. But the agony of holding my breath soon over- 
powered every other feehng and thought, till just as 
something was going to snap inside my head I rose to 
the surface. I was surrounded by a welter of bloody 
froth, which made it impossible for me to see ; but oh, 
the air was sweet ! 

I struck out blindly, instinctively, although I could 
feel so strong an eddy that voluntary progress was out 
of the question. My hand touched and clung to a rope, 
which immediately towed me in some direction — I 
neither knew nor cared whither. Soon the motion 
ceased, and, with a seaman's instinct, I began to haul 
myself along by the rope I grasped, although no definite 
idea was in my mind as to where it was attached. 
Presently I came butt up against something solid, the 
feel of which gathered all my scattered wits into a 
compact knub of dread. It was the whale ! " Any port 
\n a storm," I murmured, beginning to haul away again 



UNCOMFORTABLY NEAR BEING THE LAST, 179 

on my friendly line. By dint of hard work I pulled 
myself right up the eloping, slippery bank of blubber, 
until I reached the Jron, which, as luck would have it, 
was planted in that side of the carcass now upper- 
most. Carcass I said — well, certainly I had no idea 
of there being any life remaining within the vast mass 
beneath me; yet I had hardly time to take a couple 
of turns round myself with the rope (or whale-line, as 
I had proved it to be), when I felt the great animal 
quiver all over, and begin to forge ahead. I was now 
composed enough to remember that help could not be 
far away, and that my rescue, providing that I could 
keep above water, was but a question of a few minutes. 
But I was hardly prepared for the whale's next move. 
Being very near his end, the boat, or boats, had drawn 
off a bit, I supposed, for I could see nothing of them. 
Then I remembered the flurry. Almost at the same 
moment it began; and there was I, who with fearful 
admiration had so often watched the titanic convulsions 
of a dying cachalot, actually involved in them. The 
turns were ofif my body, but I was able to twist a couple 
of turns round my arms, which, in case of his sounding, 
I could readily let go. 

Then all was lost in roar and rush, as of the heart 
of some mighty cataract, during which I was sometimes 
above, sometimes beneath, the water, but always clinging, 
with every ounce of energy still left, to the line. Now, 
one thought was uppermost — " What if he should 
breach?** I had seen them do so when in flurry, 
leaping full twenty feet in the air. Then I prayed. 

Quickly as all the preceding changes had passed 
came perfect peace. There I lay, still alive, but so 
weak that, although I could feel the turns slipping ofl 



180 TEE CEUISE OF TEE " CACEALOT'' 

my arms, and knew that I should slide off the slope of 
the whale's side into the sea if they did, I could make 
no effort to secure myself. Everything then passed 
away from me, just as if I had gone to sleep. 

I do not at all understand how I kept my position, 
nor how long, hut I awoke to the blessed sound of 
voices, and saw the second mate's boat alongside. 
Very gently and tenderly they lifted me into the boat, 
although I could hardly help screaming with agony 
when they touched me, so bruised and broken up did 
I feel. My arms must have been nearly torn from 
their sockets, for the strands of the whale-line had cut 
deep into their flesh with the strain upon it, while my 
thigh was swollen enormously from the blow I received 
at the onset. Mr. Cruce was the most surprised man 
I think I ever saw. For full ten minutes he stared at 
me with wide-open eyes. When at last he spoke, it was 
with difficulty, as if wanting words to express his 
astonishment. At last he blurted out, " Whar you bin 
all de time, ennyhaow ? 'Cawse ef you bin hangin' on 
to dat ar wale ev' sence you boat smash, w'y de debbil 
you hain't all ter bits, hey ? " I smiled feebly, but 
was too weak to talk, and presently went off again into 
a dead faint. 

When I recovered, I was snug in my bunk aboard, 
but aching in every joint, and as sore as if I had been 
pounded with a club until I was bruised all over. 
During the day Mr. Count was kind enough to pay me 
a visit. With his usual luck, he had escaped without 
the slightest injury ; neither was any other member of 
the boat's crew the worse for the ducking but myself. 
He told me that the whale was one of the largest he 
had ever seen, and as fat as butter. The boat was an 



UNCOMFORTABLY NEAR BEING TEE LAST, 181 

entiio loss, so completely smashed to pieces that nothing 
of her or her gear had heen recovered. After spending 
about a quarter of an hour with me, he left me consider- 
ably cheered up, promising to look after me in the way 
of food, and also to send me some books. He told 
me that I need not worry myself about my inability to 
be at work, because the old man was not unfavourably 
disposed towards me, which piece of news gave me a 
great deal of comfort. 

When my poor, weary shipmates came below from 
their heavy toil of cutting in, they were almost inclined 
to be envious of my comfort — small blame to them — 
though I would gladly have taken my place among 
them again, could I have got rid of my hurts. But I 
was condemned to lie there for nearly three weeks 
before I was able to get about once more. In my sleep 
I would undergo the horrible anticipation of sliding 
down that awful, cavernous mouth over again, often 
waking with a shriek, and drenched with sweat. 

While I lay there, three whales were caught, all 
small cows, and I was informed that the skipper was 
getting quite disgusted with the luck. At last I 
managed to get on deck, quite a different -looking man 
to when I went below, and feeling about ten years older. 
I found the same sullen quiet reigning that I had 
noticed several times before when we were unfortunate. 
I fancied that the skipper looked more morose and 
savage than ever, though of me, to my great relief, he 
took not the slightest notice. 

The third day after my return to duty we sighted 
whales again. We lowered three boats as promptly 
as usual; but when within about half a mile of the 
" pod " some slight noiso in one of the boats gaUied 



182 TEE CRUISE OF THE "CACHALOT.'* 

them, and away they went in the wind's eye, it blowing 
a stiffish breeze at the time. It was from the first 
evidently a hopeless task to chase them, but we per- 
severed until recalled to the ship, dead beat with 
fatigue. I was not sorry, for my recent adventure 
seemed to have made quite a coward of me, so much 
so that an unpleasant gnawing at the pit of my stomach 
as we neared them almost made me sick. I earnestly 
hoped that so inconvenient a feeling would speedily 
leave me, or I should be but a poor creature in a boat. 

In passing, I would like to refer to the wonderful 
way in which these whales realize at a great distance, 
if the slightest sound be made, the presence of danger, 
I do not use the word "hear," because so abnormally 
small are their organs of hearing, the external opening 
being quite difficult to find, that I do not believe they 
can hear at all well. But I firmly believe they possess 
another sense by means of which they are able to 
detect any unusual vibration of the waves of either air 
or sea at a far greater distance than it would be possible 
for them to hear. Whatever this power may be which 
they possess, all whalemen are well acquainted with 
their exercise of it, and always take most elaborate 
precautions to render their approach to a whale 
noiseless. 

Our extraordinary want of success at last so annoyed 
the skipper that he determined to quit the ground and 
go north. The near approach of the open season in 
those regions probably hastened his decision, but I 
learned from Goliath that he had always been known 
as a most fortunate man among the **bowheads," as 
the great Mysticetse of that part of the Arctic seas 
are called by the Americans. Not that there is any 



UNC0MF0R7ABL7 NEAR BEING TEE LAST. 183 

difference, as far as I have been able to ascertain, 
between thera and the ** right" whale of the Greenland 
seas, but from some caprice of nomenclature for which 
there is no accounting. 

So in leisurely fashion wo worked north, keeping, of 
course, a bright look-out all the way for straggling 
cachalots, but not seeing any. From scraps of informa- 
tion that in some mysterious fashion leaked out, we 
learned that we were bound to the Okhotsk Sea, it being; 
no part of the skipper's intentions to go prowling around* 
Behrings Sea, where he believed the whales to be few 
and far between. 

It may be imagined that we of the crew were not at^ 
all pleased with this intelligence, our life being, we 
considered, sufficiently miserable without the addition 
of extreme cold; for we did not realize that in the 
Arctic regions during summer the cold is by no means 
unbearable, and our imagination pictured a horrible 
waste of perpetual ice and snow, in the midst of which 
we should be compelled to freeze while dodging whales 
through the crevices of the floes. But whether our 
pictures of the prospects that awaited us were caricatures 
or no made not the slightest difference. ** Growl you. 
may, but go you must " is an old sea-jingle of the truest 
ring ; but, while our going was inevitable, growling was- 
a luxury none of us dare indulge in. 

We had by no means a bad passage to the Kuriles, 
which form a natural barrier enclosing the immense 
area of the Okhotsk Sea from the vast stretch of the 
Pacific. Around this great chain of islands the naviga- 
tion is exceedingly difficult, and dangerous as well, from 
the ever- varying currents as from the frequent fogs and 
sudden storms. But these impediments to swift and 



184 THE uBUISE OF TEE "CACHALVT.'* 

safe navigation are made light of by the whalemen, who, 
as I feel never weary of remarking, are the finest 
navigators in the world where speed is not the first 
consideration. 

The most peculiar features of these inhospitable 
shores to a seaman are the vast fields of seaweed sur- 
rounding them all, which certainly helps to keep the sea 
down during gales, but renders navigation most difficult 
on account of its concealment of hidden dangers. These 
)islands are aptly named, the word " Kurile " being Kam- 
fichatkan for smoke ; and whether it be regarded as given 
,in consequence of the numerous volcanoes which pour 
■^heir fumes into the air, or the all-prevailing fog fostered 
by the Kuro Siwo, or Japanese counterpart of the Gulf 
.-stream, the designation is equally appropriate. 

We entered the Okhotsk Sea bytheNadeshda Channel, 
^o-named after Admiral Krusenstern's ship, which was 
the first civilized vessel that passed through its turbulent 
waters. It separates the islands Eashau and Mataua 
by about twenty miles, yet so conflicting and violent are 
the currents which eddy and swirl in all parts of it, that 
without a steady, strong fair wind it is most dangerous 
to a sailing vessel. Thenceforward the navigation was 
free from difficulty, or at least none that we could 
recognize as such, so we gave all our attention to the 
business which brought us there. 

Scarcely any change was needed in our equipment, 
except the substitution of longer harpoons for thosewe had 
been using, and the putting away of the bomb-guns. These 
changes were made because the blubber of the bowhead 
is so thick that ordinary harpoons will not penetrate 
beyond it to the muscle, which, unless they do, renders 
them liable to draw, upon a heavy strain. As for the 



UNCOMFORTABLY NEAR BEING THE LAST. 185 

bombs, Yankees bold the mysticetaB in such supreme 
contempt that none of them would dream of wasting so 
expensive a weapon as a bomb upon them. I was given 
to understand by my constant crony, Mistah Jones, that 
there was no more trouble in killing a bowhead than 
in slaughtering a sheep ; and that while it was quite true 
that accidents did occur, they were entirely due to the 
carelessness or clumsiness of the whalemen, and not in 
any way traceable to a desire on the victim's part to do 
any one harm. 

The sea was little encumbered with ice, it being now 
late in June, so that our progress was not at all im- 
peded by the few soft, brashy floes that we encountered, 
none of them hard enough to do a ship's hull any 
damage. In most places the sea was sufficiently shallow 
to permit of our anchoring. For this purpose we used 
a large kedge, with stout hawser for cable, never furling 
all the sails in case of a strong breeze suddenly spring- 
ing up, which would cause us to drag. This anchoring 
was very comfortable. Besides allowing us to get much 
more rest than when on other cruising-grounds, we were 
able to catch enormous quantities of fish, mostly salmon, 
of which there were no less than fourteen varieties. So 
plentiful were these splendid fish that we got quite 
critical in our appreciation of them, very soon finding 
that one kind, known as the " nerker," was far better 
flavoured than any of the others. But as the daintiest 
food palls the quickest, it was not long before we got 
tired of salmon, and wished most heartily for beef. 

Much fun has been made of the discontent of sailors 
with food which is considered a luxury ashore, and 
wonder expressed that if, as we assert, the ordinary 
dietary of the seaman be so bad, he should be so ready 



186 THE CRUISE OF TEE " CACEALOT.** 

to rebel when fed with delicacies. But in justice to 
the sailor, it ought to be remembered that the daintiest 
food may be rendered disgusting by bad cookery, such 
as is the rule on board merchant ships. " God sends 
meat, but the devil sends cooks " is a proverb which 
originated on board ship, and no one who has ever 
served any time in a ship's forecastle would deny that 
it is abundantly justified. Besides which, even good 
food well cooked of one kind only, served many times 
in succession, becomes very trying, only the plainest 
foods, such as bread, rice, potatoes, etc., retaining their 
command of the appetite continually. 

I remember once, when upon the Coromandel coast 
in a big Greenock ship, we found fowls very cheap. At 
Bimliapatam the captain bought two or three hundred, 
which, as we had no coops, were turned loose on deck. 
We had also at the same time prowling about the decks 
three goats, twenty pigs, and two big dogs. 

Consequently the state of the ship was filthy, nor 
could all our efforts keep her clean. This farmyard 
condition of things was permitted to continue for about 
a week, when the officers got so tired of it, and the 
captain so annoyed at the frequent loss of fowls by their 
flying overboard, that the edict went forth to feed the 
foremast hands on poultry till further orders. Great 
was our delight at the news. Fowl for dinner represented 
to our imagination almost the apex of high living, only 
indulged in by such pampered children of fortune as 
the officers of ships or well-to-do people ashore. 

When dinner-time arrived, we boys made haste to 
the galley with watering mouths, joyfully anticipating 
that rare delight of the sailor — a good "feed." The 
cook uncovered his coppers, plunged his tormentors 



UNCOMFORTABLY NEAR BEINQ THE LAST. 187 

therein, and produced such a succession of ugly corpses 
of fowls as I had never seen before. To each man a 
whole one was allotted, and we bore the steaming heca- 
tomb into the forecastle. The boisterous merriment 
became hushed at our approach, and faces grew lengthy 
when the unwholesome aspect of the '* treat " was 
revealed. Each man secured his bird, and commenced 
operations. But oh, the disappointment, and the bad 
words ! What little flesh there was upon the framework 
of those unhappy fowls was like leather itself, and 
utterly flavourless. It could not well have been other- 
wise. The feathers had been simply scalded off, the 
heads chopped off, and bodies split open to facilitate 
drawing (I am sure I wonder the cook took the trouble 
to do that much), and thus prepared they were cast into 
a cauldron of boiling salt water. There, with the water 
fiercely bubbling, they were kept for an hour and a half, 
then pitchforked out into the mess kid and set before 
us. We simply could not eat them ; no one but a Noumean 
Kanaka could, for his teeth are equal to husking a 
cocoa-nut, or chopping off a piece of sugar-cane as thick 
as your wrist. 

After much heated discussion, it was unanimously 
resolved to protest at once against the substitution of 
such a fraud as this poultry for our legitimate rations 
of " salt horse." So, bearing the disjecta membra of our 
meal, the whole crowd marched aft, and requested an 
interview with the skipper. He came out of the cabin at 
once, saying, " Well, boys, what's the matter ? " The 
spokesman, a bald-headed Yankee, who had been bo'sun's 
mate of an American man-of-war, stepped forward and 
said, offering his kid, " Jest have a look at that, sir." 
The skipper looked, saying, inquiringly, "Well?" 



188 TEE CBUISE OF THE "CACHALOT.** 

"D'yew think, sir," said Nat, ** thet's proper grub for 
men ? " " Proper grub ! Why, you old sinner, you don't 
mean to say you're goin' to growl about havin' chicken 
for dinner ? " ** Well, sir, it depends muchly upon the 
chicken. All I know is, that I've et some dam queer 
tack in my time, but sence I ben fishin' I never had no 
such bundles of sticks parcelled with leather served out 
to me. I hev et boot — leastways gnawed it when I was 
cast away in a open boat for three weeks — but it wa'n't 
bad boot, as boots go. Now, if yew say that these things 
is boots, en thet it's necessary we should eat *em, or 
starve, w'y, we'll think about it. But if yew call 'em 
chickens, 'n say you're doin' us a kindness by stoppin' 
our 'lowance of meat wile we're wrastlin* with em, then 
we say we don't feel obliged to yew, *n '11 thank yew 
kindly to keep such lugsuries for yerself, 'n give us wot 
we signed for." A murmur of assent confirmed this 
burst of eloquence, which we all considered a very fine 
effort indeed. A moment's silence ensued; then the 
skipper burst out, " I've often heard of such things, but 
hang me if I ever believed 'em till now ! You ungrateful 
beggars ! I'll see you get your whack, and no more, from 
this out. When you get any little extras aboard this 
ship agen, you'll be thankful for *em ; now I tell you." 
" All right, sir," said Nat; "so long as we don't hev to 
chaw any more of yer biled Bimly crows, I dessay we 
shall worry along as usual." And, as the Parliamentary 
reports say, the proceedings then terminated. 

Now, suppose the skipper had told that story to some 
of his shore friends, how very funny the sailors' conduct 
would have been made to appear. 

On another occasion long after, when I was mate 
of a barque loading mahogany in Tonala, Mexico, the 



UNCOMFORTABLY NEAR BEING TEE LAST. 189 

skipper thought he would practise economy hy buying a 
turtle instead of beef. A large turtle was obtained for 
twenty-five cents, and handed over to the cook to be 
dealt with, particular instructions being given him as to 
the apportionment of the meat. 

At eight bells there was a gathering of the men in 
front of the poop, and a summons for the captain. 
When he appeared, the usual stereotyped invitation to 
" have a look at that, if you please, sir,*' was uttered. 
The skipper was, I think, prepared for a protest, for he 
began to bluster immediately. " Look here ! " he bawled, 
'* I ain't goin' to *ave any of your dam nonsense. You 
want somethin' to growl about, you do." ** Well, Cap'n 
George,'* said one of the men, " you shorely don't think 
we k*n eat shells, do yer ? " Just then I caught sight of 
the kid's contents, and could hardly restrain my indig- 
nation. For in a dirty heap, the sight of which might 
have pleased an Esquimaux, but was certainly enough 
to disgust any civilized man, lay the calipee, or under- 
shell of the turtle, hacked into irregular blocks. It had 
been simply boiled, and flung into the kid, an unclean, 
disgusting heap of shell, with pieces of dirty flesh 
attached in ragged lumps. But the skipper, red-faced 
and angry, answered, ** W'y, yer so-and-so ijits, that's 
wot the Lord Mayor of London gives about a guinea a 
bounce for w'en 'e feeds lords n' dooks. Only the haris- 
tocracy at 'ome get a charnce to stick their teeth in such 
grub as that. An' 'ere are you lot a-growlin* at *avin' 
it for a change ! " ** That's all right, cap'n," said the 
man ; " bein' brort up ter such lugsuries, of corse you 
kin appreshyate it. So if yer keep it fer yer own eatin', 
an' giv us wot we signed for, we shall be werry much 
obliged." ** Now, I ain't a-goin* to 'ave none o* your 



190 TEE CRUISE OF THE " CACEALGT.'* 

cheek, so you'd better git forrard. You can betcher life 
you won't get no more fresh messes this voy'ge." So, 
with grumbling and ill-will on both sides, the conference 
came to an end. But I thought, and still think, tnat the 
mess set before those men, who had been working hard 
since six a.m., was unfit for the food of a good dog. 

Out of my own experience I might give many other 
instances of the kind, but I hope these will suffice to 
show that Jack's growling is often justified, when both 
sides of the story are heard. 



( 191 ) 



CHAPTER XVI. 

** BOWHEAD " FISniNa. 

1>AT ami night being now only distinguishable by the aid 
ot the clock, a constant look-out aloft was kept all through 
the twenty-four hourfl, watch and watch, but whales 
were apparently very scarce. We did a good deal of 
** pelagic " sealing ; that is, catching seals swimming. 
But the total number obtained was not great, for these 
creatures are only gregarious when at their rocky haunts 
during the breeding season, or among the ice just before 
that season begins. Our sealing, therefore, was only a way 
of passing the time in the absence of nobler game, to be 
abandoned at once with whales in sight. 

It was on the ninth or tenth morning after our arrival 
on the grounds that a bowhead was raised, and two boats 
sent after him. It was my first sight of the great 
Mysticetus, and I must confess to being much impressed 
by his gigantic bulk. From the difference in shape, 
he looked much larger than the largest sperm whale 
w^e had yet seen, although we had come across some of 
tne very biggest specimens of cachalot. 

The contrast between the two animals is most marked, 
so much so, in fact, that one would hardly credit them 
with belonging to the same order. Popular ideas of the 



192 TEE CRUISE OF THE *" CACHALOT:' 

whale are almost invariably taken from the Mysticeius, 
so that the average individual generally defines a whale 
as a big fish which spouts water out of the top of his 
head, and cannot swallow a herring. Indeed, so lately 
as last year a popular M.P., writing to one of the 
religious papers, allowed himself to say that " science 
will not hear of a whale with a gullet capable of admit- 
ting anything larger than a man's fist " —a piece of crass 
ignorance, which is also perpetrated in the appendix to a 
very widely-distributed edition of the Authorized Version 
of the Bible. This opinion, strangely enough, is almost 
universally held, although I trust that the admirable 
models now being shown in our splendid Natural 
History Museum at South Kensington will do much to 
remove it. Not so many people, perhaps, believe that 
a whale is a fish, instead of a mammal, but few indeed 
are the individuals who do not still think that a cetacean 
possesses a sort of natural fountain on the top of its 
head, whence, for some recondite reason, it ejects at 
regular intervals streams of water into the air. 

But a whale can no more force water through its 
spiracle or blow-hole than you or I through our nostrils. 
It inhales, when at the surface, atmospheric air, and ex- 
hales breath like ours, which, coming warm into a cooler 
medium, becomes visible, as does our breath on a frosty 
morning. 

Now, the Mysticetus carries his nostrils on the 
summit of his head, or crown, the orifice being closed 
by a beautifully-arranged valve when the animal is 
beneath the water. Consequently, upon coming to the 
surface to breathe, he sends up a jet of visible breath 
into the air some ten or twelve feet. The cachalot, on 
the other hand, has the orifice at the point of his square 



"BOWHEAD"' FJSniNG, 193 

snout, the internal channel running in a slightly diagonal 
direction downwards, and back through the skull to 
the lungs. So when he spouts, the breath is projected 
forward diagonally, and, from some peculiarity which I 
do not pretend to explain, expends itself in a short, 
bushy tuft of vapour, very distinct from the tall vertical 
spout of the bowhead or right whale. 

There was little or no wind when we sighted the 
individual I am now speaking of, so we did not attempt 
to set sail, but pulled straight for him " head and head." 
Strange as it may appear, the Mysticetus* best point of 
view is right behind, or *' in his wake," as we say ; it is 
therefore part of the code to approach him from right 
ahead, in which direction he cannot see at all. Some 
time before we reached him he became aware of our 
presence, showing by his uneasy actions that he had 
his doubts about his personal seciurity. But before he 
had made up his mind what to do we were upon him, with 
our harpoons buried in his back. The difference in his 
behaviour to what we had so long been accustomed to 
was amazing. He did certainly give a lumbering splash 
or two with his immense flukes, but no one could 
possibly have been endangered by them. The water 
was so shallow that when he sounded it was but for a 
very few minutes ; there was no escape for him that way. 
As soon as he returned to the surface he set off at his 
best gait, but that was so slow that we easily hauled 
up close alongside of him, holding the boats m that 
position without the slightest attempt to guard ourselves 
from reprisals on his part, while the officers searched 
his vitals with the lances as if they were probing a 
haystack. 

Really, the whole affair was so tame that it was 





194 TEE CRUISE OF TEE " CACEALOTr 

impossible to get up any fighting enthusiasm over it ; 
the poor, unwieldy creature died meekly and quietly as 
an overgrown seal. In less than an hour from the time 
of leaving the ship we were ready to bring our prize 
alongside. 

Upon coming up to the whale, sail was shortened, 
and as soon as the fluke-chain was passed we anchored. 
It was, I heard, our skipper's boast that he could ** skin 
a bowhead in forty minutes ; " and although we were 
certainly longer than that, the celerity with which what 
seemed a gigantic task was accomplished was marvellous. 
Of course, it was all plain-sailing, very unlike the 
complicated and herculean task inevitable at the com- 
mencement of cutting-in a sperm whale. 

Except for the head work, removing the blubber was 
effected in precisely the same way as in the case of the 
cachalot. There was a marked difference between the 
quantity of lard enveloping this whale and those we had 
hitherto dealt with. It was nearly double the thickness, 
besides being much richer in oil, which fairly dripped 
from it as we hoisted in the blanket-pieces. The upper 
jaw was removed for its long plates of whalebone or 
baleen — that valuable substance which alone makes 
it worth while nowadays to go after the Mysticetus, the 
price obtained for the oil being so low as to make it 
not worth while to fit out ships to go in search of it 
alone. '* Trying-out " the blubber, with its accompani- 
ments, is carried on precisely as with the sperm whale. 
The resultant oil, when recent, is of a clear white, unlike 
the golden-tinted fluid obtained from the cachalot. As 
it grows stale it developes a nauseous smell, which sperm 
does not, although the odour of the oil is otto of roses 
compared with the horrible mass of putridity landed 



'^BOWHEAD** FISHING. 19S 

from the tanks of a Greenland whaler at the termination 
of a cruise. For in those vessels, the fishing-time at 
their disposal being so brief, they do not wait to boil 
down the blubber, but, chopping it into small pieces, pass 
it below as it is into tanks, to be rendered down by 
the oil-mills ashore on the ship's return. 

This first bowhead yielded us eighteen tuns of oil and 
a ton of baleen, which made the catch about equal in 
value to that of a seven-tun cachalot. But the amount 
of labour and care necessary in order to thoroughly dry 
and cleanse the baleen was enormous ; in fact, for months 
after we began the bowhead fishery there was almost 
always something being done with the wretched stuff — 
drying, scraping, etc. — which, as it was kept below, also 
necessitated hoisting it up on deck and getting it down 
again. 

After this beginning, it was again a considerable time 
before we sighted any more; but when we did, there 
were quite a number of them — enough to employ all the 
boats with one each. I was out of the fun this time, 
being almost incapable of moving by reason of several 
boils on my legs — the result, I suppose, of a long absti- 
nence from fresh vegetables, or anything to supply their 
place. 

As it happened, however, I lost no excitement by 
remaining on board ; for while all the boats were away 
a large bowfiead rose near the ship, evidently being 
harassed in some way by enemies, which I could not 
at first see. He seemed quite unconscious of his 
proximity to the ship, though, and at last came so near 
that the whole performance was as visible as if it had 
been got up for my benefit. Three "killers" were 
attacking him at once, like wolves worrying a bull. 



196 TEE CRUISE OF THE " CACHALOTr 

except that his motions were far less lively than those 
of any bull would have been. 

The " killer," or Orca gladiator y is a true whale, but, 
like the cachalot, has teeth. He differs from that great 
cetacean, though, in a most important particular ; i.e, by 
having a complete set in both upper and lower jaws, 
like any other carnivore. For a carnivore indeed is he, 
the very wolf of the ocean, and enjoying, by reason of 
his extraordinary agility as well as comparative worth- 
lessness commercially, complete immunity from attack 
by man. By some authorities he is thought to be identical 
with the grampus, but whalers all consider the animals 
quite distinct. Not having had very long acquaintance 
with them both, I cannot speak emphatically upon this 
difference of opinion; so far as personal observation 
goes, I agree with the whalers in believing that there is 
much variation both of habits and shape betweenythem. 

But to return to the fight. The first inkling I got of 
what was really going on was the leaping of a killer high 
into the air by the side of the whale, and descending 
upon the victim's broad, smooth back with a resounding 
crash. I saw that the killer was provided with a pair 
of huge fins — one on his back, the other on his belly — 
which at first sight looked as if they were also weapons 
of offence. A little observation convinced me that they 
were fins only. Again and again the aggressor leaped 
into the air, falling each time on the whale's back, as if 
to beat him into submission. 

The sea around foamed and boiled like a cauldron, 
so that it was only occasional glimpses I was able to 
catch of the two killers, until presently the worried whale 
lifted his head clear out of the surrounding smother, 
revealing the two furies hanging — one on either pide — 



"BOWUEAD*" FISniNG. 197 

to Lis lips, as if endeavouring to drag his mouth open — 
which I afterwards saw was their principal object, as 
whenever during the tumult I caught sight of them, they 
were still in the same position. At last the tremendous 
and incessant blows, dealt by the most active member 
of the trio, seemed actually to have exhausted the 
immense vitality of the great bowhead, for he lay supine 
upon the surface. Then the three joined their forces, 
and succeeded in dragging open his cavernous mouth, 
into which they freely entered, devouring his tongue. 
This, then, had been their sole object, for as soon as 
they had finished their barbarous feast they departed, 
leaving him helpless and dying to fall an easy prey to our 
returning boats. 

Thus, although the four whales captured by the boats 
had been but small, the day's take, augmented by so 
great a find, was a large one, and it was a long time 
before we got clear of the work it entailed. 

From that time forward we saw no whales for six 
weeks, and, from the reports we received from two 
whalers we *' gammed," it appeared that we might con- 
sider ourselves most fortunate in our catch, since they, 
who had been longer on the ground than ourselves, had 
only one whale apiece. 

In consequence of this information, Captain Slocum 
decided to go south again, and resume the sperm whaling 
in the North Pacific, near the line — at least so the 
rumour ran ; but as we never heard anything definitely, 
we could not feel at all certain of our next destination. 

Ever since the fracas at the Bonins between Goliath 
and his watch, the relations between Captain Slocum and 
the big negro had been very strained. Even before the 
outbreak, as I have remarked upon one occasion, it was 



198 THE CRUISE OF THE '' CACHALOT.'' 

noticeable that little love was lost between them. Why 
this was so, without anything definite to guide one's 
reasoning, was difficult to understand, for a better sea- 
man or a smarter whaleman than Mistah Jones did not 
live — of that every one was quite sure. Still, there was 
no gainsaying the fact that, churlish and morose as 
our skipper's normal temper always was, he was never 
so much so as in his behaviour towards his able fourth 
mate, who, being a man of fine, sensitive temper, chafed 
under his unmerited treatment so much as to lose flesh, 
becoming daily more silent, nervous, and depressed. 
Stni, there had never been an open rupture, nor did it 
appear as if there would be, so great was the power 
Captain Slocum possessed over the will of everybody 
on board. 

One night, however, as we were nearing the Kuriles 
again, on our way south, leaving the Sea of Okhotsk, I was 
sitting on the fore side of the try-works alone, meditating 
upon what I would do when once I got clear of this 
miserable business. Futile and foolish, no doubt, my 
speculations were, but only in this way could I forget 
for awhile my surroundings, since the inestimable comfort 
of reading was denied me. I had been sitting thus 
absorbed in thoikght for nearly an hour, when Goliath 
came and seated himself by my side. We had always 
been great friends, although, owing to the strict dis- 
cipline maintained on board, it was not often we got a 
chance for a "wee bit crack," as the Scotch say. Besides, 
I was not in his watch, and even now he should rightly 
have been below. He sat for a minute or two silent; 
then, as if compelled to speak, he began in low, fierce 
whispers to tell me of his miserable state of mind. At 
last, after recapitulating many slights and insults he had 



'*BOWEEAD'' FISHING. 199 

received silently from the captain, of which I had pre- 
viously known nothing, he hecame strangely calm. 
In tones quite unlike his usual voice, he said that he 
was not an American-born negro, but a pure African, 
who had been enslaved in his infancy, with his mother, 
somewhere in the "Hinterland" of Guinea. While still 
a child, his mother escaped with him into Liberia, where 
he had remained till her death. She was, according to 
him, an Obeah woman of great power, venerated exceed- 
ingly by her own people for her prophetic abilities. 
Before her death, she had told him that he would die 
suddenly, violently, in a struggle with a white man in 
a far-off country, but that the white man would die too 
by his hand. She had also told him that he would be a 
great traveller and hunter upon the sea. As he went on, 
his speech became almost unintelligible, being mingled 
with fragments of a language I had never heard before ; 
moreover, he spoke as a man who is only half awake. 
A strange terror got hold of me, for I began to think he 
was going mad, and perhaps about to run a-mok, as the 
Malays do when driven frantic by the infliction of real or 
fancied wrongs. 

But he gradually returned to his old self, to my 
great relief, and I ventured somewhat timidly to remind 
him of the esteem in which he was held by all hands ; 
even the skipper, I ventured to say, respected him, 
although, from some detestable form of ill-humour, he 
had chosen to be so sneering and insulting towards him. 
He shook his head sadly, and said, ** My dear boy, 
youse de only man aboard dis ship — wite man, da{l^|^K 
dat don't hate an' despise me becawse ob my colour, wich 
/ cain't he'p ; an' de God you beliebe in bless you fer dat. 
As fer me, w'at I done tole you's true, 'n befo' bery 



200 THE CRUISE OF TEE " CACHALOT:* 

little w'ile you see it come true. 'N w'en dat happens 
w'at's gwine ter happen, I'se real glad to tink it gwine ter 
be better fer you — gwine ter be better fer eberybody 
*bord de Cach'lot ; but I doan keer nufiQn 'bout anybody 
else. So long." He held out his great black hand, 
and shook mine heartily, while a big tear rolled down his 
face and fell on the deck. And with that he left me 
a prey to a very whirlpool of conflicting thoughts and 
fears. 

The night was a long and weary one — longer and 
drearier perhaps because of the absence of the darkness, 
which always made it harder to sleep. An incessant 
day soon becomes, to those accustomed to the relief of 
the night, a burden grievous to be borne ; and although 
use can reconcile us to most things, and does make even 
the persistent light bearable, in times of mental distress 
or great physical weariness one feels irresistibly moved 
to cry earnestly, " Come, gentle night." 

When I came on deck at eight bells, it was a stark 
calm. The watch, under Mistah Jones' direction, were 
busy scrubbing decks with the usual thoroughness, while 
the captain, bare-footed, with trouser-legs and shirt- 
sleeves rolled up, his hands on his hips and a portentous 
frown on his brow, was closely looking on. As it was 
my spell at the crow's-nest, I made at once for the main- 
rigging, and had got halfway to the top, when some 
unusual sounds below arrested me. 

All hands were gathered in the waist, a not unusual 
thing at the changing of the watch. In the midst of 
them, as I looked down, two men came together in a 
fierce struggle. They were Goliath and the skipper. 
Captain Slocum's right hand went naturally to his hip 
pocket, where he always carried a revolver ; but before he 



"BOWEEAD" FISHINQ. 201 

could draw it, the long, black arms of his adversary 
wrapped around him, making him helpless as a babe. 
Then, with a rush that sent every one flying out of his 
way, Goliath hurled himself at the bulwarks, which 
were low, the top of the rail about thirty-three inches 
from the deck. The two bodies struck the rail with a 
heavy thud, instantly toppling overboard. That broke 
the spell that bound everybody, so that there was an 
instantaneous rush to the side. Only a hardly noticeable 
ripple remained on the surface of the placid sea. 

But, from my lofty perch, the whole of the ghastly 
struggle had been visible to the least detail. The two 
men had struck the water locked in closest embrace, 
which relaxed not even when far below the surface. 
Wlien the sea is perfectly smooth, objects are visible from 
aloft at several feet depth, though apparently diminished 
in size. The last thing I saw was Captain Slocum's white 
face, with its starting black eyes looking their last upon 
the huge, indefinite hull of the ship whose occupants he 
had ruled so long and rigidly. 

The whole tragedy occupied such a brief moment of 
time that it was almost impossible to realize that it was 
actual. Reason, however, soon regained her position 
among the officers, who ordered the closest watch to be 
kept from aloft, in case of the rising of either or both of 
the men. A couple of boats were swung, ready to drop on 
the instant. But, as if to crown the tragedy with com- 
pleteness, a heavy squall, which had risen unnoticed, 
suddenly burst upon the ship with great fury, the lashing 
hail and rain utterly obscuring vision even for a few yards. 
So unexpected was the onset of this squall that, for the 
only time that voyage, we lost some canvas through not 
being able to get it in quick enough. The topgallant 



202 TEE CRUISE OF THE " CACHALOT:' 

halyards were let go ; but while the sails were being 
clewed up, the fierce wind following the rain caught them 
from their confining gear, rending them into a thousand 
shreds. For an hour the squall raged — a tempest in 
brief — then swept away to the south-east on its furious 
journey, leaving peace again. Needless perhaps to say, 
that after such a squall it was hopeless to look for our 
missing ones. The sudden storm had certainly driven 
us several miles away from the spot where they dis- 
appeared, and, although we carefully made what haste 
was possible back along the line we were supposed to 
have come, not a vestige of hope was in any one's mind 
that we should ever see them again. 

Nor did we. Whether that madness, which I had 
feared was coming upon Goliath during our previous 
night's conversation, suddenly overpowered him and 
impelled him to commit the horrible deed, what more 
had passed between him and the skipper to even faintly 
justify so awful a retaliation — these things were now 
matters of purest speculation. As if they had never 
been, the two men were blotted out —gone before God in 
full-blown heat of murder and revengeful fury. 

On the same evening Mr. Count mustered all hands 
on the quarter-deck, and addressed us thus : *' Men, 
Captain Slocum is dead, and, as a consequence, I com- 
mand the ship. Behave yourself like men, not pre- 
suming upon kindness or imagining that I am a weak, 
vacillating old man with whom you can do as you like, 
and you will find in me a skipper who will do his duty 
by you as far as lies in his power, nor expect more from 
you than you ought to render. If, however, you do try 
any tricks, remember that I am an old hand, equal to 
most of the games that men get up to. I do want — if you 



"BOWHEAD'* FISniNO. 203 

will help mc — to make this a comfortable as well as a 
successful ship. I hope with all my heart we shall 
succeed." 

In answer to this manly and affecting little speech, 
which confirmed my previous estimate of Captain 
Count's character, were he hut free to follow the bent 
of his natural, kindly inclinations, and which I have 
endeavoured to translate out of his usual dialect, a 
hearty cheer was raised by all hands, the first ebullition 
of general good feeling manifested throughout the 
voyage. Hearts rose joyfully at the prospect of comfort 
to be gained by thoughtfulness on the part of the 
commander ; nor from that time forward did any sign of 
weariness of the ship or voyage show itself among us, 
either on deck or below. 

The news soon spread among us that, in consequence 
of the various losses of boats and gear, the captain 
deemed it necessary to make for Honolulu, where fresh 
supplies could readily be obtained. We had heard many 
glowing accounts from visitors, when " gamming," of the 
delights of this well-known port of call for whalers, and 
under our new commander we had little doubt that we 
should be allowed considerable liberty during our stay. 
So we were quite impatient to get along, fretting con- 
siderably at the persistent fogs which prevented our 
making much progress while in the vicinity of the 
Kuriles. But we saw no more bowheads, for which none 
of us forward were at all sorry. We had got very 
tired of the stink of their blubber, and the never-ending 
worry connected with the preservation of the baleen; 
besides, we had not yet accumulated any fund of 
enthusiasm about getting a full ship, except as a reason 
for shortening the voyage, and we quite understood 



204 TEE CRUISE OF THE " GACHALOTr 

that what black oil we had got would be landed at 
Hawaii, so that our visit to the Okhotsk Sea, with its 
resultant store of oil, had not really brought our return 
home any nearer, as we at first hoped it would. 

A great surprise was in store for me. I knew that 
Captain Count was favourably inclined towards me, for 
he had himself told me so, but nothing was further from 
my thoughts than promotion. However, one Sunday 
afternoon, when we were all peacefully enjoying the 
unusual rest (we had no Sundays in Captain Slocum's 
time), the captain sent for me. He informed me that, 
after mature consideration, he had chosen me to fill 
the vacancy made by the death of Mistah Jones. Mr. 
Cruce was now mate ; the waspish little third had 
become second ; Louis Silva, the captain's favourite 
harpooner, was third; and I was to be fourth. Not 
feeling at all sure of how the other harpooners would 
take my stepping over their heads, I respectfully 
demurred to the compliment offered me, stating my 
reasons. But the captain said he had fully made up 
his mind, after consultation with the other officers, and 
that I need have no apprehension on the score of the 
harpooners* jealousy ; that they had been spoken to on 
the subject, and they were all agreed that the captain's 
choice was the best, especially as none of them knew 
anything of navigation, or could write their own names. 

In consequence of there being none of the crew fit to 
take a harpooner's place, I was now really harpooner of 
the captain's boat, which he would continue to work, when 
necessary, until we were able to ship a harpooner, 
which he hoped to do at Hawaii. 

The news of my promotion was received in grim 
silence by the Portuguese forward, but the white men all 



*'B0W2/EAD" FISHING. 205 

Beemed pleased. This was highly gratifying to me, for I 
had tried my hest to he helpful to all, as far as my 
limited ahilities would let me ; nor do I think I had an 
enemy in the ship. Behold me, then, a full-hlown 
"mister," with a definite substantial increase in my 
prospects of pay of nearly one-third, in addition to many 
other advantages, which, under the new captain, promised 
exceedingly well. 

More than half the voyage lay behind us, looking like 
the fast-settling bank of storm-clouds hovering above 
the tempest-tossed sea so lately passed, while ahead the 
bright horizon was full of promise of fine weather for 
the remainder of the journey. 



206 THE CBUISE OF THE " CACHALOT." 



CHAPTER XVIL 

VISIT TO HONOLULU. 

Right glad were we all when, after much fumbling and 
box-hauling about, we once more felt the long, familiar 
roll of the Pacific swell, and saw the dim fastnesses of 
the smoky islands fading into the lowering gloom 
astern. Most deep-water sailors are familiar, by report 
if not by actual contact, with the beauties of the Pacific 
islands, and I had often longed to visit them to see 
for myself whether the half that had been told me was 
true. Of course, to a great number of seafaring men, 
the loveliness of those regions counts for nothing, their 
desirability being founded upon the frequent opportuni- 
ties of unlimited indulgence in debauchery. To such 
men, a " missionary " island is a howling wilderness, 
and the missionaries themselves the subjects of the 
vilest abuse as well as the most boundless lying. 

No one who has travelled with his eyes open would 
assert that all missionaries were wise, prudent, or even 
godly men ; while it is a great deal to be regretted that 
so much is made of hardships which in a large pro- 
portion of cases do not exist, the men who are supposed 
to be enduring them being immensely better off and 
more comfortable than they would ever have been at 



VISIT TO HONOLULU, 207 

home. Undoubtedly the pioneers of missionary enter- 
prise had, almost without exception, to face dangers and 
miseries past telling, but that is the portion of pioneers 
in general. In these days, however, the missionary's 
lot in Polynesia is not often a hard one, and in many 
cases it is infinitely to be preferred to a life among the 
very poor of our great cities. 

But when all has been said that can be said against 
the missionaries, the solid bastion of fact remains that, 
in consequence of their labours, the whole vile character 
of the populations of the Pacific has been changed, and 
where wickedness runs riot to-day, it is due largely to 
the hindrances placed in the way of the noble efforts 
of the missionaries by the unmitigated scoundrels who 
vilify them. The task of spreading Christianity would 
not, after all, be so difficult were it not for the efforts 
of those apostles of the devil to keep the islands as they 
would like them to be — places where lust runs riot day 
and night, murder may be done with impunity, slavery 
flourishes, and all evil may be indulged in free from law, 
order, or restraint. 

It speaks volumes for the inherent might of the 
Gospel that, in spite of the object-lessons continually pro- 
vided for the natives by white men of the negation of 
all good, that it has stricken its roots so deeply into 
the soil of the Pacific islands. Just as the best proof 
of the reality of the Gospel here in England is that it 
survives the incessant assaults upon it from within by 
its professors, by those who are paid, and highly paid, 
to propagate it, by the side of whose deadly doings the 
efforts of so-called infidels are but as the battery of a 
summer breeze ; so in Polynesia, were not the principles 
of Christianity vital with an immortal and divine life. 



208 THE CBUISE OF TEE " CACHALOT:' 

missionary efforts might long ago have ceased in utter 
despair at the fruitlessness of the field. 

We were enjoying a most uneventful passage, free 
from any serious changes either of wind or weather, 
which quiet time was utilized to the utmost in making 
many much-needed additions to running gear, repair- 
ing rigging, etc. Any work involving the use of new 
material had been put off from time to time during the 
previous part of the voyage till the ship aloft was really 
in a dangerous condition. This was due entirely to 
the peculiar parsimony of our late skipper, who could 
scarcely bring himself to broach a coil of rope, except 
for whaling purposes. The same false economy had 
prevailed with regard to paint and varnish, so that 
the vessel, while spotlessly clean, presented a worn- 
out, weather-beaten appearance. Now, while the con- 
dition of life on board was totally different to what it 
had been, as regards comfort and peace, discipline and 
order were maintained at the same high level as always, 
though by a different method — in fact, I believe that a 
great deal more work was actually done, certainly much 
more that was useful and productive ; for Captain 
Count hated, as much as any foremast hand among us, 
the constant, remorseless grind of iron-work polishing, 
paint-work scrubbing, and holystoning, all of which, 
though necessary in a certain degree, when kept up 
continually for the sole purpose of making work — a sort 
of elaborated tread-mill, in fact — becomes the refinement 
of cruelty to underfed, unpaid, and hopeless men. 

So, while the Cachalot could have fearlessly challenged 
comparison with any ship afloat for cleanliness and 
neatness of appearance, the hands no longer felt that 
they were continually being "worked up" or *' hazed" 



VISIT TO HONOLULU, 209 

for the sole, diabolical satisfaction of keeping them 
**at it." Of course, the incidence of the work was 
divided, since so many of the crew were quite unable 
to do any sailorizing, as we term work in sails and 
rigging. Upon them, then, fell all the common labour, 
which can be done by any unskilled man or woman 
afloat or ashore. 

Of this work a sailor's duties are largely made up, but 
when good people ashore wonder '* whatever sailors do 
with their time," it would be useful for them to remember 
that a ship is a huge and complicated machine, needing 
constant repairs, which can only be efliciently performed 
by skilled workmen. An ** A.B." or able seaman's duties 
are legally supposed to be defined by the three ex- 
pressions, ** hand, reef, and steer." If he can do those 
three things, which mean furling or making fast sails, 
reefing them, and steering the ship, his wages cannot 
be reduced for incompetency. Yet these things are the 
A B C of seamanship only. A good seaman is able to 
make all the various knots, splices, and other arrange- 
ments in hempen or wire rope, without which a ship 
cannot be rigged ; he can make a sail, send up or down 
yards and masts, and do many other things, the sum 
total of which need several years of steady application 
to learn, although a good seaman is ever learning. 

Such seamen are fast becoming extinct. They are 
almost totally unnecessary in steamships, except when 
the engines break down in a gale of wind, and the crowd 
of navvies forming the crew stand looking at one another 
when called upon to set sail or do any other job aloft. 
Then the want of seamen is rather severely felt. But 
even in sailing ships — the great, overgrown tanks of two 
thousand tons and upwards — mechanical genius has 

p 



210 TEE CBUISE OF THE '' CACEALOTr 

utilized iron to such an extent in their rigging that 
sailor-work has become very largely a matter of black- 
smithing. I make no complaint of this, not believing 
that the ** old was better ; " but, since the strongest fabric 
of man's invention comes to grief sometimes in conflict 
with the irresistible sea, some provision should be made 
for having a sufficiency of seamen who could exercise 
their skill in refitting a dismasted ship or temporarily 
replacing broken blacksmith work by old-fashioned rope 
and wood. 

But, as the sailing ship is doomed inevitably to dis- 
appear before steam, perhaps it does not matter much. 
The economic march of the world's progress will never 
be stayed by sentimental considerations, nor will all the 
romance and poetry in the world save the seaman from 
extinction, if his place can be more profitably filled by 
the engineer. From all appearances, it soon will be, 
for even now marine superintendents of big lines are 
sometimes engineers, and in their hands lie the duty 
of engaging the officers. It would really seem as if the 
ship of the near future would be governed by the chief 
engineer, under whose direction a pilot or sailing-master 
would do the necessary navigation, without power to 
interfere in any matter of the ship's economy. Changes 
as great have taken place in other professions ; seafaring 
cannot hope to be the sole exception. 

So, edging comfortably along, we gradually neared 
the Sandwich Islands without having seen a single spout 
worth watching since the tragedy. At last the lofty 
summits of the island mountains hove in sight, and 
presently we came to an anchor in that paradise of 
whalers, missionaries, and amateur statesmen — Honolulu. 
As it is as well known to most reading people as our own 



VISIT TO HONOLULU. 211 

ports — better, perhaps — I shall not attempt to describe 
it, or pit myself against the able writers who have made 
it so familiar. Yet to me it was a new world. All things 
were so strange, so delightful, especially the lovable, 
lazy, fascinating Kanakas, who could be so limply happy 
over a dish of poo, or a green cocoa-nut, or even a 
lounge in the sun, that it seemed an outrage to expect 
them to work. In their sports they could be energetic 
enough. I do not know of any more delightful sight 
than to watch them bathing in the tremendous surf, 
simply intoxicated with the joy of living, as unconscious 
of danger as if swinging in a hammock while riding 
triumphantly upon the foaming summit of an incoming 
breaker twenty feet high, or plunging with a cataract 
over the dizzy edge of its cliff, swallowed np in the 
hissing vortex below, only to reappear with a scream of 
riotous laughter in the quiet eddy beyond. 

As far as I could judge, they were the happiest of 
people, literally taking no thought for the morrow, and 
content with the barest necessaries of life, so long as they 
were free and the sun shone brightly. We had many op- 
portunities of cultivating their acquaintance, for the cap- 
tain allowed us much liberty, quite one-half of the crew 
and officers being ashore most of the time. Of course, 
the majority spent all their spare time in the purlieus 
of the town, which, like all such places anywhere, were 
foul and filthy enough ; but that was their own faults. 
I have often wondered much to see men, who on board 
ship were the pink of cleanliness and neatness, fastidious 
to a fault in all they did, come ashore and huddle in the 
most horrible of kennels, among the very dregs and 
greaves of the 'long-shore district. It certainly wants a 
great deal of explanation ; but I suppose the most potent 



212 THE CRUISE OF THE "CACHALOT."* 

reason is, that sailors, as a class, never learn to enjoy 
themselves rationally. They are also morbidly suspicious 
of being taken in hand by anybody who would show them 
anything worth seeing, preferring to be led by the human 
sharks that infest all seaports into ways of strange 
nastiness, and so expensive withal that one night of such 
wallowing often costs them more than a month's sane 
recreation and good food would. All honour to the 
devoted men and women who labour in our seaports for 
the moral and material benefit of the sailor, passing 
their lives amidst sights and sounds shocking and sicken- 
ing to the last degree, reviled, unthanked, unpaid. Few 
are the missionaries abroad whose lot is so hard as- 
theirs. 

We spent ten happy days in Honolulu, marred only 
by one or two drunken rows among the chaps forward, 
which, however, resulted in their getting a severe dress- 
ing-down in the forecastle, where good order was now 
kept. There had been no need for interference on the 
part of the officers, which I was glad to see, remember- 
ing what would have happened under such circumstances 
not long ago. Being short-handed, the captain engaged 
a number of friendly islanders for a limited period, on 
the understanding that they were to be discharged at 
their native place, Vau Van. There were ten of them, 
fine, stalwart fellows, able-bodied, and willing as possible. 
They were cleanly in their habits, and devout members 
of the Wesleyan body, so that their behaviour was quite 
a reproach to some of our half-civilized crew. Berths 
were found for them in the forecastle, and they took their 
places among us quite naturally, being fairly well used 
*o a whale-ship. 



( 213 ) 



CHAPTER XVIIL 

ON THE ** LINE " GROUNDS. 

Wk weighed at last, one morning, with a beautiful 
breeze, and, bidding a long farewell to the lovely isles 
and their amiable inhabitants, stood to sea, bound for 
the ** line " or equatorial grounds on our legitimate 
business of sperm whaling. It was now a long while 
since we had been in contact with a cachalot, the last 
one having been killed by us on the Coast of Japan 
some six months before. But we all looked forward to 
the coming campaign with considerable joy, for we were 
now a happy family, interested in the work, and, best 
of all, even if the time was still distant, we were, in a 
sense, homeward bound. At any rate, we all chose so 
to think, from the circumstance that we were now work- 
ing to the southward, towards Cape Horn, the rounding 
of which dreaded point would mark the final stage of 
our globe-encircling voyage. 

We had, during our stay at Honolulu, obtained a 
couple of grand boats in addition to our stock, and were 
now in a position to man and lower five at once, if 
occasion should arise, still leaving sufficient crew on 
board to work the vessel. The captain had also engaged 
an elderly seaman of his acquaintance — out of puro 



214 TEE CRVISE OF THE " CACHALOT,'* 

philanthropy, as we all thought, since he was in a state 
of semi-starvation ashore — to act as a kind of sailing- 
master, so as to relieve the captain of ship duty at 
whaling time, allowing him still to head his hoat. This 
was not altogether welcome news to me, for, much as I 
liked the old man and admired his pluck, I could not help 
dreading his utter recklessness when on a whale, which 
had so often led to a smash-up that might have been 
easily avoided. Moreover, J reasoned that if he had been 
foolhardy before, he was likely to be much more so 
now, having no superior to look black or use language 
when a disaster occurred. For now I was his harpooner, 
bound to take as many risks as he chose to incur, 
and anxious also to earn a reputation among the more 
seasoned whalemen for smartness sufficient to j ustify my 
promotion. 

The Kanakas shipped at Honolulu were distributed 
among the boats, two to each, being already trained 
whalemen, and a fine lot of fellows they were. My two — 
Samuela and Polly — were not very big men, but sturdy, 
nimble as cats, as much at home in the water as on 
deck, and simply bubbling over with fun and good- 
humour. From my earliest sea-going, I have always had 
a strong liking for natives of tropical countries, finding 
them affectionate and amenable to kindness. Why, I 
think, white men do not get on with darkies well, as a rule, 
is, that they seldom make an appeal to the man in them. 
It is very degrading to find one's self looked down upon as 
a sort of animal without reason or feelings ; and if you 
degrade a man, you deprive him of any incentive to make 
himself useful, except the brute one you may feel bound 
to apply yourself. My experience has been limited to 
Africans (of sorts), Kanakas, natives of Hindostan, 



ON TEE "LINE*" GROUNDS. 215 

Malagasy, and Chinese ; but with all these I have found 
a little camaraderie answer excellently. True, they are 
lazy ; but what inducement have they to work ? The 
complicated needs of our civilized existence compel us 
to work, or be run over by the unresting machine ; but 
I take leave to doubt whether any of us with a primitive 
environment would not be as lazy as any Kanaka that 
ever dozed under a banana tree through daylight hours. 
Why, then, make an exalted virtue of the necessity which 
drives us, and objurgate the poor black man because ho 
prefers present ease to a doubtful prospective retirement 
on a competency ? Australian blackfellows and Malays^ 
are said to be impervious to kind treatment by a great 
number of witnesses, the former appearing incapable of 
gratitude, and the latter unable to resist the frequent 
temptation to kill somebody. Not knowing anything 
personally of either of these races, I can say nothing for- 
or against them. 

All the coloured individuals that I have had to do- 
with have amply repaid any little kindness shown them 
with fidelity and affection, but especially has this been 
the case with Kanakas. The soft and melodious language 
spoken by them is easy to acquire, and is so pleasant to 
speak that it is well worth learning, to say nothing 
of the convenience to yourself, although the Kanaka 
speedily picks up the mutilated jargon which does duty 
for English on board ship. 

What I specially longed for now was a harpooner, or 
even two, so that I might have my boat to myself, the 
captain taking his own boat with a settled harpooner. 
Samuela, the biggest of my two Kanakas, very earnestly 
informed me that he was no end of a ** number one" 
whale slaughterer ; but I judged it best to see how things 



216 TEE CBUISE OF TEE " CACEALOT,'' 

went before asking to have him promoted. My chance, 
and his, came very promptly ; so nicely arranged, too, 
that I could not have wished for anything better. The 
skipper had got a fine, healthy boil on one knee-cap, and 
another on his wrist, so that he was, as you may say, 
hors de combat. While he was impatiently waiting to 
get about once more, sperm whales were raised. Although 
nearly frantic with annoyance, he was compelled to leave 
the direction of things to Mr. Cruce, who was quite 
puffed up with the importance of his opportunity. 

Such a nice little school of cow- whales, a lovely breeze, 
clear sky, warm weather — I felt as gay as a lark at the 
prospect. As we were reaching to windward, with all 
boats ready for lowering, the skipper called me aft and 
said, " Naow, Mr. Bullen, I cain't lower, because of this 
condemned leg 'n arm of mine ; but how'r yew goin' ter 
manage 'thout a harpooneer ? " I suggested that if he 
would allow me to try Samuela, who was suffering for 
a chance to distinguish himself, we would **come out 
on top." *' All right," he said ; " but let the other boats 
get fast first, 'n doan be in too much of a hurry to tie 
yerself up till ye see what's doin*. If everythin's 
goin' bizness-fashion', 'n yew git a chance, sail right in ; 
yew got ter begin some time. But ef thet Kanaka looks 
skeered goin' on, take the iron frum him ter onct." I 
promised, and the interview ended. 

When I told Samuela of his chance, he was beside 
himself with joy. As to his being scared, the idea was 
manifestly absurd. He was as pleased with the prospect 
as it was possible for a man to be, and hardly able to 
contain himself for impatience to be off. I almost envied 
him his exuberant delight, for a sense of responsibility 
began to weigh upon me with somewhat depressing effect 



ON TEE ** LINE*' OB0UND8. 217 

We gained a good weather-gage, rounded to, and 
lowered four boats. Getting away in good style, we bad 
barely got the sails up, when something gallied the 
school. We saw or heard nothing to account for it, but 
undoubtedly the " fish " were off at top speed dead to wind- 
ward, 80 that our sails were of no use. We had them 
in with as little delay as possible, and lay to our oars 
for all we were worth, being fresh and strong, as well as 
anxious to get amongst them. But I fancy all our 
efforts would have availed us little had it not been for 
the experience of Mr. Cruce, whose eager eye detected 
the fact that the fish were running on a great curve, 
and shaped our course to cut them off along a chord of 
the arc. 

Two and a half hours of energetic work was required 
of us before we got on terms with the fleeing monsters ; 
but at last, to our great joy, they broke water from 
sounding right among us. It was a considerable sur- 
prise, but we were all ready, and before they had spouted 
twice, three boats were fast, only myself keeping out, in 
accordance with my instructions. Samuela was almost 
distraught with rage and grief at the condition of things. 
I quite pitied him, although I was anything but pleased 
myself. However, when I ranged up alongside the mate's 
fish, to render what assistance was needed, he shouted to 
me, *' We's all right ; go'n git fas', if yew kin." That 
was enough, and away we flew after a retreating spout 
to leeward. Before we got there, though, there was an 
upheaval in the water just ahead, and up came a back 
like a keelless ship bottom up. Out came the head 
belonging to it, and a spout like an explosion burst forth, 
denoting the presence of an enormous bull-cachalot. 
Close by his side was a cow of about one-third his size. 



218 TEE CRUISE OF THE " CACEALOT."* 

the favoured sultana of bis harem, I suppose. Prudence 
whispered, " Go for the cow ; " Ambition hissed, " All 
or none — the bull, the bull." Fortunately emergencies of 
this kind leave one but a second or two to decide, as a 
rule ; in this case, as it happened, I was spared even that 
mental conflict, for as we ran up between the two vast 
creatures, Samuela, never even looking at the cow, 
hurled his harpoon, with all the energy that he had 
been bursting with so long, at the mighty bull. I 
watched its flight — saw it enter the black mass and 
disappear to the shaft, and almost immediately came 
the second iron, within a foot of the first, burying itself 
in the same solid fashion. 

** Starn — starn all ! "I shouted ; and we backed slowly 
away, considerably hampered by the persistent attentions 
of the cow, who hung round us closely. The temptation 
to lance her was certainly great, but I remembered the 
fate that had overtaken the skipper on the first occasion 
we struck whales, and did not meddle with her ladyship. 
Our prey was not apparently disposed to kick up much 
fuss at first, so, anxious to settle matters, I changed 
ends with Samuela, and pulled in on the whale. A good, 
steady lance-thrust — the first I had eyer delivered — was 
obtained, sending a thrill of triumph through my whole 
body. The recipient, thoroughly roused by this, started 
off at a great lick, accompanied, somewhat to my surprise, 
by the cow. Thenceforward for another hour, in spite 
of all our efforts, we could not get within striking distance, 
mainly because of the close attention of the cow, which 
stuck to her lord Hke a calf to its mother. I was 
getting so impatient of this hindrance, that it was all 
I could do to restrain myself from lancing the cow, 
though I felt convinced that, if I did, I should spoil a 



ON THE ''LINE" HOUNDS. 219 

good job. Suddenly I caught sight of the ship right 
ahead. Wo were still flying along, so that in a short 
time we were comparatively close to her. My heart 
beat high, and I burned to distinguish myself under 
the friendly and appreciative eye of the skipper. 

None of the other boats were in sight, from our level 
at least, so that I had a reasonable hope of being able 
to finish my game, with all the glory thereunto attaching, 
unshared by any other of my fellow-officers. As we ran 
4uite closely past the ship, calling on the crew to haul 
up for all they were worth, we managed actually to 
squeeze past the cow, and I got in a really deadly blow. 
The point of the lance entered just between the fin and 
the eye, but higher up, missing the broad plate of the 
shoulder-blade, and sinking its whole four feet over the 
hitches right down into the animal's vitals. Then, for 
the first time, he threw up his flukes, thrashing them from 
side to side almost round to his head, and raising such 
a turmoil that we were half full of water in a moment. 
But Samuela was so quick at the steer-oar, so lithe and 
forceful, and withal appeared so to anticipate every 
move of mine, that there seemed hardly any danger. 

After a few moments of this tremendous exertion, our 
victim settled down, leaving the water deeply stained 
with his gushing blood. With him disappeared his con- 
stant companion, the faithful cow, who had never left 
his side a minute since we first got fast. Down, down 
they went, until my line began to look very low, and I 
was compelled to make signals to the ship for more. We 
had hardly elevated the oars, when down dropped the 
last boat with four men in her, arriving by my side 
in a few minutes with two fresh tubs of tow-line. 
We took them on board, and the boat returned again. 



220 THE CRUISE OF TEE " CACHALOTS 

By the time the slack came we had about four hundred 
and fifty fathoms out — a goodly heap to pile up loose in 
our stern-sheets. I felt sure, however, that we should 
have but little more trouble with our fish ; in fact, I was 
half afraid that he would die before getting to the surface, 
in which case he might sink and be lost. We hauled 
steadily away, the line not coming in very easily, until I 
judged there was only about another hundred fathoms 
out. Our amazement may be imagined, when suddenly 
we were compelled to slack away again, the sudden weight 
on the line suggesting that the fish was again sounding. 
If ever a young hand was perplexed, it was I. Never 
before had I heard of such unseemly behaviour, nor was 
my anxiety lessened when I saw, a short distance away, 
the huge body of my prize at the surface spouting blood. 
At the same time, I was paying out line at a good rate, 
as if I had a fast fish on which was sounding briskly. 

The skipper had been watching me very closely from 
his seat on the taffrail, and had kept the ship within easy 
distance. Now, suspecting something out of the common, 
he sent the boat again to my assistance, in charge of the 
cooper. When that worthy arrived, he said, " Th' ol' 
man reckens yew've got snarled erp 'ith thet ar' loose 
keow, 'n y'r irons hev draw'd from th* other. I'm gwine 
ter wait on him, 'n get him 'longside 'soon's he's out'er 
his flurry. Ole man sez yew'd best wait on what's fast 
t' yer an' nev* mine th' other." Away he went, reaching 
my prize just as the last feeble spout exhaled, leaving 
the dregs of that great flood of life trickling lazily down 
from the widely-expanded spiracle. To drive a harpoon 
into the carcass, and run the line on board, was the 
simplest of jobs, for, as the captain had foreseen, my irons 
were drawn clean. I had no leisure to take any notice 



ON THE "LINE" GROUNDS, 221 

of them now/ though, for whatever was on my line was 
coming up hand-over-fist. 

With a bound it reached the surface — the identical 
cow so long attendant upon the dead whale. Having 
been so long below for such a small whale, she was quite 
exhausted, and before she had recovered we had got 
alongside of her and lanced her, so thoroughly that she 
died without a struggle. The ship was so close that we 
had her alongside in a wonderfully short time, and with 
scarcely any trouble. 

When I reached the deck, the skipper called me, and 
said several things that made feel about six inches taller. 
He was, as may be thought, exceedingly pleased, saying 
that only once in his long career had he seen a similar 
case ; for I forgot to mention that the line was en- 
tangled around the cow's down-hanging jaw, as if she 
had actually tried to bite in two the rope that held her 
consort, and only succeeded in sharing his fate. I would 
not like to say that whales do not try to thus sever a 
line, but, their teeth being several inches apart, conical, 
and fitting into sockets in the upper jaw instead of 
meeting the opposed surfaces of other teeth, the accom- 
plishment of such a feat must, I think, be impossible. 

The ship being now as good as anchored by the vast 
mass of flesh hanging to her, there was a tremendous 
task awaiting us to get the other fish alongside. Of 
course they were all to windward ; they nearly always 
are, unless the ship is persistently " turned to windward '* 
while the fishing is going on. Whalers believe that they 
always work up into the wind while fast, and, when dead, 
it is certain that they drift at a pretty good rate right in 
the ** wind's eye.** This is accounted for by the play of 
the body, which naturally lies head to wind ; and the 



222 THE CRUISE OF THE *' CACUALOTr 

wash of the flukes, which, acting somewhat like tliQ 
" sculHng" of an oar at the stern of a hoat, propel the 
carcass in the direction it is pointing. Consequently we 
had a cruel amount of towing to do before we got the 
three cows alongside. Many a time we blessed ourselves 
that they were no bigger, for of all the clumsy things to 
tow with boats, a sperm whale is about the worst. Owing 
to the great square mass of the head, they can hardly be 
towed head-on at all, the practice being to cut off the tips 
of the flukes, and tow them tail first. But even then it 
is slavery. To dip your oar about three times in the 
same hole from whence you withdrew it, to tug at it with 
all your might, apparently making as much progress as 
though you were fast to a dock- wall, and to continue this 
fun for four or five hours at a stretch, is to wonder indeed 
whether you have not mistaken your vocation. 

However, " it's dogged as does it," so by dint of sheer 
sticking to the oar, we eventually succeeded in getting 
all our prizes alongside before eight bells that evening, 
securing them around us by hawsers to the cows, but 
giving the big bull the post of honour alongside on the 
best fluke-chain. 

We were a busy company for a fortnight thence, until 
the last of the oil was run below — two hundred and fifty 
barrels, or twenty-five tuns, of the valuable fluid having 
rewarded our exertions. During these operations we 
had drifted night and day, apparently without anybody 
taking the slightest account of the direction we were 
taking ; when, therefore, on the day after clearing up the 
last traces of our fishing, the cry of " Land ho ! " came 
ringing down from the crow's-nest, no one was surprised, 
although the part of the Pacific in which we were 
cruising has but few patches of terra firma scattered 



ON THE ''LINE'' QROUNDB, 223 

about over its immense area when compared with the 
crowded archipelagoes lying farther south and east. 

We could not see the reported land from the deck for 
two hours after it was first seen from aloft, although the 
odd spectacle of a scattered group of cocoa-nut trees 
apparently growing out of the sea was for some time 
presented to us before the island itself came into 
view. It was Christmas Island, where the indefatigable 
Captain Cook landed on December 24, 1777, for the 
purpose of making accurate observations of an eclipse of 
the sun. He it was who gave to this lonely atoll the 
name it has ever since borne, w^ith characteristic modesty 
giving his own great name to a tiny patch of coral which 
almost blocks the entrance to the central lagoon. Here 
we lay " off and on " for a couple of days, while foraging 
parties went ashore, returning at intervals with 
abundance of turtle and sea-fowls* eggs. But any 
detailed account of their proceedings must be ruthlessly 
curtailed, owing to the scanty limits of space remaining. 



224 THE CRUISE OF TEE '' CACHALOT r 



CHAPTER XIX. 

EDGING SOUTHWARD. 

The line whaling grounds embrace an exceedingly 
extensive area, over the whole of which sperm whales 
may be found, generally of medium size. No means 
of estimating the probable plenty or scarcity of them in 
any given part of the grounds exist, so that falling in 
with them is purely a matter of coincidence. To me 
it seems a conclusive proof of the enormous numbers 
of sperm whales frequenting certain large breadths 
of ocean, that they should be so often fallen in with, 
remembering what a little spot is represented by a day's 
cruise, and that the signs which denote almost infallibly 
the vicinity of right whales are entirely absent in the 
case of the cachalot. In the narrow waters of the 
Greenland seas, with quite a small number of vessels 
seeking, it is hardly possible for a whale of any size to 
escape being seen ; but in the open ocean a goodly fleet 
may cruise over a space of a hundred thousand square 
miles without meeting any of the whales that may yet 
be there in large numbers. So that when one hears 
talk of the extinction of the cachalot, it is weU to bear in 
mind that such a thing would take a long series of years 
to effect, even were the whaling business waxing instead 



EDGING SOUTHWARD. 225 

of waning. While, however, South Sea whaling is con- 
ducted on such old-world methods as still ohtain ; while 
steam, with all the power it gives of rapidly dealing with 
a catch, is not made use of, the art and mystery of 
the whale-fisher must continually decrease. No such 
valuable lubricant has ever been found as sperm oil; 
but the cost of its production, added to the precarious 
nature of the supply, so handicaps it in the competition 
with substitutes that it has been practically eliminated 
from the English markets, except in such greatly 
adulterated forms as to render it a lie to speak of the 
mixture as sperm oil at all. 

Except to a few whose mmds to them are kingdoms, 
and others who can hardly be said to have any minds 
at all, the long monotony of unsuccessful seeking for 
whales is very wearying. The ceaseless motion of the 
vessel rocking at the centre of a circular space of blue, 
with a perfectly symmetrical dome of azure enclosing 
her above, unflecked by a single cloud, becomes at last 
almost unbearable from its changeless sameness of 
environment. Were it not for the trivial round and 
common task of everyday ship duty, some of the crew 
must become idiotic, or, in sheer rage at the want of 
interest in their lives, commit mutiny. 

Such a weary time was ours for full four weeks after 
sighting Christmas Island. The fine haul we had 
obtained just previous to that day seemed to have 
exhausted our luck for the time being, for never a spout 
did we see. And it was with no ordinary delight that 
we hailed the advent of an immense school of black-fish, 
the first we had run across for a long time. Determined 
to have a big catch, if possible, we lowered all five boats, 
as it was a beautifully calm day, and the ship might 

Q 



226 TEE CRUISE OF TEE ''CACHALOT:' 

almost safely have been left to look after herself. After 
what we had recently been accustomed to, the game 
seemed trifling to get up much excitement over ; but 
still, for a good day's sport, commend me to a few lively 
black-fish. 

In less than ten minutes we were in the thick of the 
crowd, with harpoons flying right and left. Such a 
scene of wild confusion and uproarious merriment 
ensued as I never saw before in my life. The skipper, 
true to his traditions, got fast to four, all running 
different ways at once, and making the calm sea boil 
again with their frantic gyrations. Each of the other 
boats got hold of three ; but, the mate getting too near 
me, our fish got so inextricably tangled up that it was 
hopeless to try and distinguish between each other's 
prizes. However, when we got the lances to work among 
them, the hubbub calmed down greatly, and the big 
bodies one by one ceased their gambols, floating supine. 

So far, all had been gay ; but the unlucky second 
mate must needs go and do a thing that spoiled a day*s 
fun entirely. The line runs through a deep groove in 
the boat's stem, over a brass roller so fitted that when 
the line is running out it remains fixed, but when 
hauling in it revolves freely, assisting the work a great 
deal. The second mate had three fish fast, like the 
rest of us — the first one on the end of the main line, 
the other two on " short warps," or pieces of whale-line 
some eight or ten fathoms long fastened to harpoons, 
with the other ends running on the main line by means 
of bowlines round it. By some mistake or other he had 
allowed the two lines to be hauled together through the 
groove in his boat's stem, and before the error was 
noticed two fish spurted off in opposite directions, 



EDGING SOUTHWARD, 227 

ripping the boat in two halves lengthways, like a 
Dutchman splitting a salt herring. 

Away went the fish with the whole of the line, 
nobody being able to get at it to cut ; and, but for the 
presence of mind shown by the crew in striking out and 
away from the tangle, a most ghastly misfortune, in- 
volving the loss of several lives, must have occurred. 
As it was, the loss was considerable, almost outweighing 
the gain on the day's fishing, besides the inconvenience 
of having a boat useless on whaling grounds. 

The accident was the fruit of gross carelessness, and 
should never have occurred ; but then, strange to say, 
disasters to whale-boats are nearly always due to want of 
care, the percentage of unavoidable casualties being very 
small as compared with those like the one just related. 
When the highly dangerous nature of the work is remem- 
bered, this statement may seem somewhat overdrawn; but 
it has been so frequently corroborated by others, whose 
experience far outweighs my own, that I do not hesitate 
to make it with the fullest confidence in its truth. 

Happily no lives were lost on this occasion, for it 
would have indeed been grievous to have seen our ship- 
mates sacrificed to the manes of a mere black-fish, after 
successfully encountering so many mighty whales. The 
episode gave us a great deal of unnecessary work 
getting the two halves of the boat saved, in addition 
to securing our fish, so that by the time we got the 
twelve remaining carcasses hove on. deck we were all 
quite fagged out. But under the new regime we were 
sure of a good rest, so that did not trouble us ; it 
rather made the lounge on deck in the balmy evening 
air and the well-filled pipe of peace doubly sweet. 

Our next day's work completed the skinning of the 



228 THE CRUISE OF TEE " CACHALOTS 

haul we had made, the last of the carcasses going over- 
board with a thunderous splash at four in the afternoon. 
The assemblage of sharks round the ship on this occasion 
was incredible for its number and the great size of the 
creatures. Certainly no mariners see so many or such 
huge sharks as whalemen ; but, in spite of all our previous 
experience, this day touched high-water mark. Many of 
these fish were of a size undreamed of by the ordinary 
seafarer, some of them full thirty feet in length, more 
like whales than sharks. Most of them were striped 
diagonally with bands of yellow, contrasting curiously 
with the dingy grey of their normal colour. From this 
marking is derived their popular name — " tiger sharks," 
not, as might be supposed, from their ferocity. That 
attribute cannot properly be applied to the squalus at 
all, which is one of the most timid fish afloat, and 
whose ill name, as far as regards blood-thirstiness, is 
quite undeserved. Eapacious the shark certainly is; 
but what sea-fish is not ? He is not at all particular as 
to his diet ; but what sea-fish is ? With such a great 
bulk of body, such enormous vitality and vigour to 
support, he must needs be ever eating ; and since he is 
not constructed on swift enough lines to enable him to 
prey upon living fish, like most of his neighbours, he is 
perforce compelled to play the humble but useful part of 
a sea-scavenger. 

He eats man, as he eats anything else eatable, because 
in the water man is easily caught, and not from natural 
depravity or an acquired taste begetting a decided pre- 
ference for human flesh. All natives of shores infested 
by sharks despise him and his alleged man-eating 
propensities, knowing that a very feeble splashing will 
suffice to frighten him away even if ever so hungry. 



EDGING SOUTHWARD. 229 

Demerara Biver literally swarms with sharks, yet I have 
often seen a negro, clad only in a beaming smile, slip into 
its muddy waters, and, after a few sharp blows with his 
open hand upon the surface, calmly swim down to the 
bottom, clear a ship's anchor, or do whatever job was 
required, coming up again as leisurely as if in a 
swimming-bath. A similar disregard of the dangerous 
attributes awarded by popular consent to the shark may 
be witnessed everywhere among the people who know 
him best. The cruelties perpetrated upon sharks by 
seamen generally are the result of ignorance and super- 
stition combined, the most infernal forces known to 
humanity. What would be said at home of such an act, 
if it could be witnessed among us, as the disembowelling 
of a tiger, say, and then letting him run in that horrible 
condition somewhere remote from the possibility of 
retaliating upon his torturers ? Yet that is hardly com- 
parable with a similar atrocity performed upon a shark, 
because he will live hours to the tiger's minutes in such 
a condition. 

I once caught a shark nine feet long, which we hauled 
on board and killed by cutting off its head and tail. It 
died very speedily — for a shark — all muscular motion 
ceasing in less than fifteen minutes. It was my inten- 
tion to prepare that useless and unornamental article 
so dear to sailors — a walking-stick made of a shark's 
backbone. But when I came to cut out the vertebra, I 
noticed a large scar, extending from one side to the other, 
right across the centre of the back. Beneath it the 
backbone w^as thickened to treble its normal size, and 
perfectly rigid ; in fact, it had become a mass of solid 
bone. At some time or other this shark had been 
harpooned so severely that, in wrenching himself free. 



230 THE CRUISE OF THE ''CACHALOT."* 

he must have nearly torn his body in two halves, sever- 
ing the spinal column completely. Yet such a wound as 
that had been healed by natural process, the bone knit 
together again with many times the strength it had 
before — minus, of course, its flexibility — and I can testify 
from the experience of securing him that he could not 
possibly have been more vigorous than he was. 

A favourite practice used to be — I trust it is so no 
longer — to catch a shark, and, after driving a sharpened 
stake down through his upper jaw and out underneath the 
lower one, so that its upper portion pointed diagonally 
forward, to let him go again. The consequence of this 
-cruelty would be that the fish was unable to open his 
mouth, or go in any direction without immediately 
coming to the surface. How long he might linger in 
such torture, one can only guess ; but unless his fellows, 
finding him thus helpless, came along and kindly devoured 
him, no doubt he would exist in extreme agony for a 
very long time. 

Two more small cows were all that rewarded our 
search during the next fortnight, and we began to feel 
serious doubts as to the success of our season upon the 
line grounds, after all. Still, on the whole, our voyage 
up to the present had not been what might fairly be 
called unsuccessful, for we were not yet two years away 
from New Bedford, while we had considerably more than 
two thousand barrels of oil on board — more, in fact, than 
two-thirds of a full cargo. But if a whale were caught 
every other day for six months, and then a month elapsed 
without any being seen, grumbling would be loud and 
frequent, all the previous success being forgotten in the 
present stagnation. Perhaps it is not so different in 
other professions nearer home ? 



EDGING SOUTHWARD, 231 

Christmas Day drew near, beloved of Englishmen all 
the world over, though thought little of by Americans. 
The two previous ones spent on board the Cachalot have 
been passed over without mention, absolutely no notice 
being taken of the season by any one on board, to all 
appearance. In English ships some attempt is always 
made to give the day somewhat of a festive character, 
and to maintain the national tradition of good-cheer and 
goodwill in whatever part of the world you may happen 
to be. For some reason or other, perhaps because of 
the great increase in comfort we had all experienced 
lately, I felt the approach of the great Christian anni- 
versary very strongly ; although, had I been in London, I 
should probably have spent it in lonely gloom, having 
no relatives or friends whom I might visit. But what of 
that ? Christmas is Christmas ; and, if we have no home^ 
we think of the place where our home should be ; and 
whether, as cynics sneer, Dickens invented the English 
Christmas or not, its observance has taken deep root 
among us. !May its shadow never be less ! 

On Christmas morning I mounted to the crow's-nest 
at daybreak, and stood looking with never-failing awe 
at the daily marvel of the sunrise. Often and often 
have I felt choking for words to express the tumult of 
thoughts aroused by this sublime spectacle. Hanging 
there in cloudland, the tiny microcosm at one's feet 
forgotten, the grandeur of the celestial outlook is 
overwhelming. Many and many a time I have bowed 
my head and wept in pure reverence at the majesty 
manifested around me while the glory of the dawn in- 
creased and brightened, till with one exultant bound 
the sun appeared. 

For some time I stood gazing straight ahead of me 



232 TEE CBUISE OF TEE ''CACHALOT.'' 

with eyes that saw not, filled with wonder and admiration. 
I must have been looking directly at the same spot for 
quite a quarter of an hour, when suddenly, as if I had but 
just opened my eyes, I saw the well-known bushy spout 
of a sperm whale. I raised the usual yell, which rang 
through the stillness discordantly, startling all hands 
out of their lethargy like bees out of a hive. After the 
usual preliminaries, we were all afloat with sails set, 
gliding slowly over the sleeping sea towards the un- 
conscious objects of our attention. The captain did not 
lower this time, as there only appeared to be three fish, 
none of them seeming large. Though at any distance 
it is extremely difiQcult to assess the size of whales, the 
spout being very misleading. Sometimes a full-sized 
whale will show a small spout, while a twenty-barrel 
cow will exhale a volume of vapour extensive enough for 
two or three at once. 

Now although, according to etiquette, I kept my 
position in the rear of my superior officers, I had fully 
determined in my own mind, being puffed up with 
previous success, to play second fiddle to no one, if I 
could help it, this time. Samuela was decidedly of the 
same opinion; indeed, I believe he would have been 
delighted to tackle a whole school single-handed, while 
my crew were all willing and eager for the fight. We 
had a long, tedious journey before we came up with them, 
the wind being so light that even with the occasional 
assistance of the paddles our progress was wretchedly 
slow. When at last we did get into their water, and 
the mate's harpooner stood up to dart, his foot slipped, 
and down he came with a clatter enough to scare a 
cachalot twenty miles away. It gallied our friends 
effectually, sending them flying in different directions at 



EDGING SOUTHWABD. 233 

the top of their speed. But being some distance astern 
of the other boats, one of the fish, in his headlong retreat, 
rose for a final blow some six or seven fathoms away, 
passing us in the opposite direction. His appearance 
was only momentary, yet in that moment Samuela 
hurled his harpoon into the air, where it described a 
beautiful parabola, coming down upon the disappearing 
monster's back just as the sea was closing over it. Oh, 
it was a splendid dart, worthy of the finest harpooner 
that ever lived ! There was no time for congratulations, 
however, for we spun round as on a pivot, and away we 
went in the wake of that fellow at a great rate. I cast 
one look astern to see whether the others had struck, but 
could see nothing of them ; we seemed to have sprung 
out of their ken in an instant. 

The speed of our friend was marvellous, but I 
comforted myself with the knowledge that these animals 
usually run in circles — sometimes, it is true, of enormous 
diameter, but seldom getting far away from their starting- 
point. But as the time went on, and we seemed to fly 
over the waves at undiminished speed, I began to think 
this whale might be the exception necessary to prove the 
rule, so I got out the compass and watched his course. 
Due east, not a degree to north or south of it, straight 
as a bee to its hive. The ship was now far out of sight 
astern, but I knew that keen eyes had been watching 
our movements from the masthead, and that every effort 
possible would be made to keep the run of us. The 
speed of our whale was not only great, but unflagging. 
He was more like a machine than an animal capable of 
tiring ; and though we did our level best, at the faintest 
symptom of slackening, to get up closer and lance him, 
it was for some time impossible. After, at a rough 



234 THE CBUISE OF THE " CACHALOT:' 

estimate, running in a direct easterly course for over two 
hours, he suddenly sounded, without having given us the 
ghost of a chance to " land him one where he lived." 
Judging from his previous exertions, though, it was 
hardly possible he would be able to stay down long, or 
get very deep, as the strain upon these vast creatures at 
any depth is astonishingly exhausting. After a longer 
stay below than usual, when they have gone extra deep, 
they often arrive at the surface manifestly ** done up " 
for a time. Then, if the whaleman be active and daring, 
a few well-directed strokes may be got in which will 
promptly settle the business out of hand. 

Now, when my whale sounded he was to all appearance 
as frightened a beast as one could wish— one who had 
run himself out endeavouring to get away from his 
enemies, and as a last resource had dived into the 
quietness below in the vain hope to get away. So I 
regarded him, making up my mind to wait on him with 
diligence upon his arrival, and not allow him to get 
breath before I had settled him. But when he did 
return, there was a mighty difference in him. He 
seemed as if he had been getting some tips on the subject 
from some school below where whales are trained to 
hunt men ; for his first move was to come straight foi 
me with a furious rush, carrying the war into the 
enemy's country with a vengeance. It must be remem- 
bered that I was but young, and a comparatively new 
hand at this sort of thing ; so when I confess that I felt 
more than a little scared at this sudden change in 
the tactics of my opponent, I hope I shall be excused. 
Eemembering, however, that all our lives depended on 
keeping cool, I told myself that even if I was frightened 
I must not go all to pieces, but compel myself to think 



EDGING SOVTEWAUD. 235 

and act calmly, since I was responsible for others. If 
the animal had not been in so blind a fury, I am afraid 
my task would have been much harder ; but he was mad, 
and his savage rushes were, though disquieting, unsyste- 
matic and clumsy. It was essential, however, that he 
should not be allowed to persist too long in his evil 
courses ; for a whale learns with amazing rapidity, 
developing such cunning in an hour or two that all a 
man's smartness may be unable to cope with his newly- 
acquired experience. Happily, Samuela was perfectly 
unmoved. Like a machine, he obeyed every gesture, 
every look even, swinging the boat **ofif" or **on" the 
whale with such sweeping strokes of his mighty oar that 
she revolved as if on a pivot, and encouraging tho other 
chaps with his cheerful cries and odd grimaces, so that 
the danger was hardly felt. During a momentary lull 
in the storm, I took the opportunity to load my bomb-gun, 
much as I disliked handling the thing, keeping my eye 
all the time on the water around where I expected to see 
mine enemy popping up murderously at any minute. 
Just as I had expected, when he rose, it was very 
close, and on his back, with his jaw in the first biting 
position, looking ugly as a vision of death. Finding us 
a little out of reach, he rolled right over towards us, 
presenting as he did so the great rotundity of his belly. 
We were not twenty feet away, and I snatched up the 
gun, levelled it, and fired the bomb point-blank into his 
bowels. Then all was blank. I do not even remember 
the next moment. A rush of roaring waters, a fighting 
with fearful, desperate energy for air and life, all in a 
hurried, flurried phantasmagoria about which there was 
nothing clear except the primitive desire for life, life, 
life ! Nor do I know how long this struggle lasted, except 



236 TEE CRUISE OF THE " CACHALOT." 

that, in the nature of things, it could not have been very 
long. 

When I returned to a consciousness of external 
things, I was for some time perfectly still, looking at the 
sky, totally unable to realize what had happened or 
where I was. Presently the smiling, pleasant face of 
Samuela bent over me. Meeting my gratified look of 
recognition, he set up a perfect yell of delight. ** So 
glad, so glad you blonga life ! No go Davy Jonesy dis 
time, hay ? '* I put my hand out to help myself to a 
sitting posture, and touched blubber. That startled me 
so that I sprung up as if shot. Then I took in the situa- 
tion at a glance. There were all my poor fellows with 
me, stranded upon the top of our late antagonist, but no 
sign of the boat to be seen. Bewildered at the state ol 
affairs, I looked appealingly from one to the other for an 
explanation. I got it from Abner, who said, laconically, 
** When yew fired thet ole gun, I guess it mus' have bin 
loaded fer bear, fer ye jest tumbled clar head over heels 
backwards outen the boat. Et that very same moment 
I suspicion the bomb busted in his belly, fer he went 
clean rampageous loony. He rolled right over an' over 
to'rds us, n* befo' we c'd rightly see wat wuz comin', we 
cu'dnt see anythin' 'tall ; we wuz all grabbin' at nothin', 
some'rs underneath the whale. When I come to the top, 
I lit eout fer the fust thing I c'd see to lay holt of, which 
wuz old squarhead himself, deader 'n pork. I guess thet 
ar bomb o' yourn kinder upset his commissary depart- 
ment. Anyway, I climed up onto him, 'n bime-by the 
rest ov us histed themselves alongside ov me. Sam 
Weller here; he cum last, towin' you 'long with him. I 
don'no whar he foun' ye, but ye was very near a goner, 
*n's full o' pickle as ye c'd hold." I turned a grateful eye 



EDGING SOUTH WABD. 237 

upon my dusky harpooner, who had saved my life, but 
was now apparently blissfully unconscious of having done 
anything meritorious. 

Behold us, then, a half-drowned row of scarecrows 
perched, like some new species of dilapidated birds, upon 
the side of our late foe. The sun was not so furiously 
hot as usual, lor masses of rain-laden nimbi were filling 
the sky, so that we were comparatively free from the 
awful roasting we might have expected; nor was our 
position as precarious for a while as would be thought. 
True, we had only one harpoon, with its still fast line, to 
hold on by; but the side of the whale was somehow 
hollowed, so that, in spite of the incessant movement im- 
parted to the carcass by the swell, we sat fairly safe, with 
our feet in the said hollow. We discussed the situation 
in all its bearings, unable to extract more than the 
faintest gleam of hope from any aspect of the case. The 
only reasonable chance we had was, that the skipper had 
almost certainly taken our bearings, and would, we were 
sure, be anxiously seeking us on the course thus indicated. 
Meanwhile, we were ravenously hungry and thirsty. 
Samuela and Polly set to work with their sheath-knives, 
and soon excavated a space in the blubber to enable 
them to reach the meat. Then they cut off some good- 
sized junks, and divided it up. It was not half bad ; and 
as we chewed on the tough black fibre, I could hardly 
help smiling as I thought how queer a Christmas dinner 
we were having. But eating soon heightened our thirst, 
and our real sufferings then began. We could eat very 
little once the want of drink made itself felt. Hardly 
two hours had elapsed, though, before one of the big- 
bellied clouds which had been keeping the sun off us 
most considerately emptied out upon us a perfect torrent 



238 TEE CBUISE OF TEE " CACEALOTr 

of rain. It filled the cavity in the whale's side in a 
twinkling; and though the water was greasy, stained 
with blood, and vilely flavoured, it was as welcome a drink 
as I have ever tasted. Thus fed, and with our thirst 
slaked, we were able to take a more hopeful view of 
things, while the prospect of our being found seemed 
much more probable than it had done before the rain fell. 

Still, we had to endure our pillory for a long while 
yet. The sharks and birds began to worry us, especially 
the former, who in their eagerness to get a portion of 
the blubber fought, writhed, and tore at the carcass with 
tireless energy. Once, one of the smaller ones actually 
came sliding up right into our hollow ; but Samuela and 
Polly promptly dispatched him with a cut throat, sending 
him back to encourage the others. The present relieved 
us of most of their attentions for a short time at least, as 
they eagerly divided the remains of their late comrade 
among them. 

To while away the time we spun yarns — without much 
point, I am afraid ; and sung songs, albeit we did not feel 
much like singing — till after a while our poor attempts 
at gaiety fizzled out like a damp match, leaving us silent 
and depressed. The sun, which had been hidden for 
some time, now came out again, his slanting beams 
revealing to us ominously the flight of time and the 
near approach of night. Should darkness overtake us 
in our present position, we all felt that saving us would 
need the performance of a miracle ; for in addition to the 
chances of the accumulated gases within the carcass 
bursting it asunder, the unceasing assault of the sharks 
made it highly doubtful whether they would not in a 
few hours more have devoured it piecemeal. Already 
they had scooped out some deep furrows in the solid 



EDGING SO urn WARD. 239 

blubber, making it easier to get hold and tear off more, 
and their numbers were increasing so fast that the 
surrounding sea was fairly alive with them. Lower 
and lower sank the sun, deeper and darker grew the 
gloom upon our faces, till suddenly Samuela leaped to 
his feet in our midst, and emitted a yell so ear-piercing 
as to nearly deafen us. He saw the ship ! Before two 
minutes had passed we all saw her — God bless her ! — 
coming down upon us like some angelic messenger. 
There were no fears among us that we should be over- 
looked. We knew full well how anxiously and keenly 
many pairs of eyes had been peering over the sea in 
search of us, and we felt perfectly sure they had sighted 
us long ago. On she came, gilded by the evening glow, 
till she seemed glorified, moving in a halo of celestial 
light, all her homeliness and clumsy build forgotten in 
what she then represented to us. 

Never before or since has a ship looked like that to 
me, nor can I ever forget the thankfulness, the delight, 
the reverence, with which I once more saw her ap- 
proaching. Straight down upon us she bore, rounding 
to within a cable's length, and dropping a boat simul- 
taneously with her windward sweep. They had no whale 
— well for us they had not. In five minutes we were on 
board, while our late resting-place was being hauled 
alongside with great glee. 

The captain shook hands with me cordially, pooh- 
poohing the loss of the boat as an unavoidable incident 
of the trade, but expressing his heart-felt delight at 
getting us all back safe. The whale we had killed was 
ample compensation for the loss of several boats, 
though such was the vigour with which the sharks were 
going for him, that it was deemed advisable to cut in at 



240 THE CRUISE OF THE " CACHALOT:' 

once, working all night. We who had been rescued, 
however, were summarily ordered below by the skipper, 
and forbidden, on pain of his severe displeasure, to re- 
appear until the following morning. This great privilege 
we gladly availed ourselves of, awaking at daylight 
quite well and fit, not a bit the worse for our queer 
experience of the previous day. 

The whale proved a great acquisition, for although 
not nearly so large as many we had caught, he was so 
amazingly rich in blubber that he actually yielded 
twelve and a half tuns of oil, in spite of the heavy toll 
taken of him by the hungry multitudes of sharks. In 
addition to the oil, we were fortunate enough to secure 
a lump of ambergris, dislodged perhaps by the explosion 
of my bomb in the animal's bowels. It was nearly 
black, wax-like to the touch, and weighed seven pounds 
and a half. At the current price, it would be worth 
about £200, so that, taken altogether, the whale very 
nearly approached in value the largest one we had yet 
caught. I had almost omitted to state that incorporated 
with the substance of the ambergris were several of the 
horny cuttle-fish beaks, which, incapable of being 
digested, had become in some manner part of this 
peculiar product. 



( 241 ) 



CHAPTER XX. 



Another three weeks* cruising brought us to the end 
of the season on the line, which had certainly not 
answered all our expectations, although we had per- 
ceptibly increased the old barky' s draught during our 
stay. Whether from love of change or belief in the 
possibilities of a good haul, I can hardly say, but 
Captain Count decided to make the best of his way 
south, to the middle group of the ** Friendly " Archi- 
pelago, known as Vau Vau, the other portions being 
called Hapai and Tongataboo respectively, for a season's 
**humpbacking." From all I could gather, we were 
likely to have a good time there, so I looked forward to 
the visit with a great deal of pleasurable anticipation. 

We were bound to make a call at Vau Vau, in any 
case, to discharge our Kanakas shipped at Honolulu, 
although I fervently hoped to be able to keep my brave 
harpooner Samuela. So when I heard of our destination, 
I sounded him cautiously as to his wishes in the matter, 
finding that, while he was both pleased with and proud 
of his position on board, he was longing greatly for 
his own orange grove and the embraces of a certain 
tender *' fafine " that he averred was there awaiting 
him. With such excellent reasons for his leaving as, I 



*242 TEE CRUISE OF THE " CACHALOT:' 

could but forbear to persuade him, sympathizing with 
him too deeply to wish him away from such joys as he 
described to me. 

So we bade farewell to the line grounds, and 
commenced another stretch to the south, another mile- 
stone, as it were, on the long road home. Prosaic and 
uneventful to the last degree was our passage, the 
only incident worth recording being our *' gamming** 
of the Fassamaquoddy, of Martha's Vineyard, South Sea 
whaler ; eighteen months out, with one thousand barrels 
of sperm oil on board. We felt quite veterans along- 
side of her crew, and our yarns laid over theirs to 
such an extent that they were quite disgusted at their 
lack of experience. Some of them had known our late 
skipper, but none of them had a good word for him, the 
old maxim, ** Speak nothing but good of the dead," 
being most flagrantly set at nought. One of her crew 
was a WhitechapeUan, who had been roving about the 
world for a good many years. 

Amongst other experiences, he had, after "jumping 
the bounty *' two or three times, found himself a sergeant 
in the Federal Army before Gettysburg. During that 
most bloody battle, he informed me that a " Eeb " drew 
a bead on him at about a dozen yards distance, and 
fired. He said he felt just as if somebody had punched 
him in the chest, and knocked him flat on his back on 
top of a sharp stone — no pain at all, nor any further 
recollection of what had happened, until he found him- 
self at the base, in hospital. When the surgeons came 
to examine him for the bullet, they found that it had 
struck the broad brass plate of his cross-belt fairly in 
the middle, penetrating it and shattering his breast 
bone. But after torturing him vilely with the probe, 
they were about to give up the search in despair, when 



''UUMFDACKING'* AT VAU VAU. 243 

Le told them he felt a pain in his back. Examining 
tliO spot indicated by him, they found a ballet just 
beneath the skin, which a touch with the knife allowed 
to tumble out. Further examination revealed the 
strange fact that the bullet, after striking his breast- 
bone, had glanced aside and travelled round his body 
just beneath the skin, without doing him any further 
harm. In proof of his story, he showed me the two 
scars and the perforated buckle-plate. 

At another time, being in charge of a picket of 
Germans, he and his command were captured by a party 
of Confederates, who haled him before their colonel, a 
southern gentleman of the old school. In the course of 
his interrogation by the southern officer, he was asked 
where he hailed from. He replied, " London, England." 
"'Then," said the colonel, "how is it you find yourself 
fighting for these accursed Yankees ? " The cockney 
faltered out some feeble excuse or another, which his 
captor cut short by saying, '* I've a great respect for the 
English, and consequently I'll let you go this time. 
But if ever I catch you again, you're gone up. As for 

those d d Dutchmen, they'll be strung up inside of 

five minutes." And they were. 

So with yam, song, and dance, the evening passed 
pleasantly away ; while the two old hookers jogged 
amicably along side by side, like two market-horses 
whose drivers are having a friendly crack. Along about 
midnight we exchanged crews again, and parted with 
many expressions of good-will — we to the southward, she 
to the eastward, for some particular preserve believed in 
by her commander. 

In process of time we made the land of Vau Vau, a 
picturesque, densely wooded, and in many places pre- 
cipitous, group of islands, the approach being singularly 



244 TEE CRUISE OF TEE '' CACEALOT,** 

free from dangers in the shape of partly hidden reefs. 
Long and intricate were the passages we threaded, until 
we finally came to anchor in a lovely little bay perfectly 
sheltered from all winds. We moored, within a mile of 
a dazzling white beach, in twelve fathoms. A few native 
houses embowered in orange and cocoa-nut trees showed 
here and there, while the two horns of the bay were 
steep-to, and covered with verdure almost down to the 
water's edge. The anchor was hardly down before a perfect 
fleet of canoes flocked around us, all carrying the familiar 
balancing outrigger, without which those narrow dugouts 
cannot possibly keep upright. Their occupants swarmed 
on board, laughing and playing like so many children, 
and with all sorts of winning gestures and tones besought 
our friendship. " You my flem ? " was the one question 
which all asked ; but what its import might be we could 
not guess for some time. By-and-by it appeared that 
when once you had agreed to accept a native for youj 
"flem," or friend, he from henceforward felt in duty 
bound to attend to all your wants which it lay within 
his power to supply. This important preliminary 
settled, fruit and provisions of various kinds appeared 
as if by magic. Huge baskets of luscious oranges, 
massive bunches of gold and green bananas, clusters of 
green cocoa-nuts, conch-shells full of chillies, fowls 
loudly protesting against their hard fate, gourds full of 
eggs, and a few vociferous swine — all came tumbling on 
board in richest profusion, and, strangest thing of all, 
not a copper was asked in return. I might have as 
truly said nothing was asked, since money must have 
^ been useless here. Many women came alongside, but none 
climbed on board. Surprised at this, I asked Samuela 
the reason, as soon as I could disengage him for a few 
moments from the caresses of his friends. He informed 



** IJUMPBACKING** AT VAU 7AV, 245 

me that the ladies' reluctance to favour us with their 
society was owing to their being in native dress, which 
it is punishable to appear in among white men, the 
punishment consisting of a rather heavy fine. Even 
the men and boys, I noticed, before they ventured to 
climb on board, stayed a while to put on trousers, or 
what did duty for those useful articles of dress. At any 
rate, they were all clothed, not merely enwrapped with 
a fold or two of ** tapa," the native bark-cloth, but made 
awkward and ugly by dilapidated shirts and pants. 

She was a busy ship for the rest of that day. The 
anchor down, sails furled and decks swept, the rest of 
the time was our own, and high jinks were the result. 
The islanders were amiability personified, merry as 
children, nor did I s<^e or hear one quarrelsome in- 
dividual among them. AYhilo we were greedily devour- 
ing the delicious fruit, which was piled on deck in 
mountainous quantities, they encouraged us, telling us 
that the trees ashore were breaking down under their 
loads, and what a pity it was that there were so few to 
eat such bountiful supplies. 

We were, it appeared, the first whale-ship that had 
anchored there that year, and, in that particular bay 
where we lay, no vessel had moored for over two years. 
An occasional schooner from Sydney called at the 
"town" about ten miles away, where the viceroy's 
house was, and at the present time of speaking one of 
Godeffroi's Hamburg ships was at anchor there, taking 
in an accumulation of copra from her agent's store. 
But the natives all spoke of her with a shrug — "No 
like Tashman, Tashman no good." Why, I could not 
ascertain. 

Our Kanakas had promised to remain with us till 
our departure for the south, so, hard as it seemed to 



246 THE CRUISE OF TEE " CACHALOT.'* 

them, they were not allowed to go ashore, in case they 
might not come back, and leave us short-handed. But 
as their relatives and friends could visit them whenever 
they felt inclined, the restriction did not hurt them 
much. The next day, being Sunday, all hands were 
allowed liberty to go ashore by turns (except the 
Kanakas), with strict injunctions to molest no one, but 
to behave as if in a big town guarded by policemen. 
As no money could be spent, none was given, and, best 
of all, it was impossible to procure any intoxicating liquor. 
Our party got ashore about 9.30, but not a soul was 
visible either on the beach or in the sun-lit paths which 
led through the forest inland. Here and there a house, 
with doors wide open, stood in its little cleared space, 
silent and deserted. It was like a country without 
inhabitants. Presently, however, a burst of melody 
arrested us, and borne upon the scented breeze came — 
oh, so sweetly ! — the well-remembered notes of ** Holling- 
side." Hurriedly getting behind a tree, I let myself go, 
and had a perfectly lovely, soul-refreshing cry. Eeads 
funny, doesn't it ? Sign of weakness perhaps. But when 
childish memories come back upon one torrent-like in 
the swell of a hymn or the scent of the hawthorn, it 
seems to me that the flood-gates open without you 
having anything to do with it. When I was a little 
chap in the Lock Chapel choir, before the evil days 
came, that tune was my favourite ; and when I heard 
it suddenly come welling up out of the depths of the 
forest, my heart just stood still for a moment, and then 
the tears came. Queer idea, perhaps, to some people ; 
but I do not know when I enjoyed myself so much as I 
did just then, except when a boy of sixteen home from 
a voyage, and strolling along the Knightsbridge Koad, 
I " happened " into the Albert Hall. I did not in the 



** HUMPBaCKING " AT VAU VAU, 247 

least know what was coming; the notices on the bills 
did not mean anything to me ; but I paid my shilling, and 
went up into the gallery. I had hardly edged myself 
into a corner by the refreshment- stall, when a great 
breaker of sound caught me, hurled me out of time, 
thought, and sense in one intolerable ecstasy — " For 
unto us a Child is born ; unto us a Son is given " — again 
and again — billows and billows of glory. 1 gasped for 
breath, shook like one in an ague fit ; the tears ran 
down in a continuous stream; while people 'stared 
amazed at me, thinking, I suppose, that I was another 
drunken sailor. Well, I was drunk, helplessly intoxi- 
cated, but not with drink, with something Divine, 
untenable, which, coming upon me unprepared, simply 
swept me away with it into a heaven of delight, to which 
only tears could testify. 

But I am in the bush, whimpering over the tones of 
** HoUingside." As soon as I had pulled myself together 
a bit, we went on again in the direction of the sound. 
Presently we came to a large clearing, in the middle of 
which stood a neat wooden, pandanus-thatched church 
There were no doors or windows to it, just a roof supported 
upon posts, but a wide verandah ran all round, upon 
the edge of which we seated ourselves ; for the place was 
full — full to suffocation, every soul within miles, I should 
think, being there. No white man was present, but the 
service, which was a sort of prayer-meeting, went with 
a swing and go that was wonderful to see. There was 
no perfunctory worship here ; no one languidly enduring 
it because it was ** the right sort of thing to show up at, 
you know; " but all were in earnest, terribly in earnest. 
When they sang, it behoved us to get away to a little 
distance, for the vigour of the voices, unless mellowed 
by distance, made the music decidedly harsh. Every 



248 TEE CRUISE OF THE " CACHALOT,** 

one was dressed in European clothing — the women in 
neat calico gowns ; but the men, nearly all of them, in 
woollen shirts, pilot-coats, and trousers to match, and 
sea-boots ! Whew ! it nearly stifled me to look at them. 
The temperature was about ninety degrees in the shade, 
with hardly a breath of air stirring, yet those poor 
people, from some mistaken notion of propriety, were 
sweating in torrents under that Arctic rig. However 
they could worship, I do not know ! At last the meeting 
broke up. The men rushed out, tore off their coats, 
trousers, and shirts, and flung themselves panting upon 
•the grass, mother-naked, except for a chaplet of cocoa- 
nut leaves, formed by threading them on a vine-tendril, 
;and hanging round the waist. 

Squatting by the side of my "flem," whom I had 
recognized, I asked him why ever he outraged all reason 
hy putting on such clothes in this boiling weather. He 
looked at me pityingly for a moment before he replied, 
" You go chapella Belitani ? No put bes' close on top ? " 
'* Yes," I said ; ** but in hot weather put on thin clothes ; 
cold weather, put on thick ones." '* S'pose no got 
more ? " he said, meaning, I presumed, more than the 
one suit. **Well," I said, ** more better stop 'way 
than look like big fool, boil all away, same like duff in 
pot. You savvy duff ? " He smiled a wide comprehen- 
sive smile, but looked very solemn again, saying directly, 
'* You no go chapella ; you no mishnally. No mishnally 
[missionary = godly] ; vely bad. Me no close ; no go 
chapella; vely bad. Evelly tangata, evelly fafine, got 
close all same papalang [every man and woman has 
clothes like a white man] ; go chapella all day Sunday/.'* 
That this was no figure of speech I proved fully tliat 
day, for I declare that the recess between any of the 
services never lasted more than an hour. Meanwhile 



** HUMFBACKINO"* AT VAU VAU. 249 

the worshippers did not return to their homes, for in 
many cases they had journeyed twenty or thirty miles, 
but lay about in the verdure, refreshing themselves with 
fruit, principally the delightful green cocoa-nuts, which 
furnish meat and drink both — cool and refreshing in the 
extreme, as well as nourishing. 

We were all heartily welcome to whatever was going, 
but there was a general air of restraint, a fear of 
breaking the Sabbath, which prevented us from tres- 
passing too much upon the hospitality of these devout 
children of the sun. So we contented ourselves with 
strolling through the beautiful glades and woods, lying 
down, whenever we felt weary, under the shade of some 
spreading orange tree loaded with golden fruit, and eat- 
ing our fill, or rather eating until the smarting of our lips 
warned us to desist. Here was a land where, apparently, 
all people were honest, for we saw a great many houses 
whose owners were absent, not one of which was closed, 
although many had a goodly store of such things as a 
native might be supposed to covet. At last, not being able 
to rid ourselves of the feeling that we were doing some- 
thing wrong, the solemn silence and Sundayfied air of 
the whole region seeming to forbid any levity even in 
the most innocent manner, we returned on board again, 
wonderfully impressed with what we had seen, but 
wondering what would have happened if some of the 
ruffianly crowds composing the crews of many ships 
had been let loose upon this fair island. 

In the evening we lowered a stage over the bows to 
the water's edge, and had a swimming-match, the 
water being perfectly delightful, after the great heat of 
the day, in its dehcious freshness; and so to bunk, 
well pleased indeed with our first Sunday in Vau Vau. 

I have no doubt whatever that some of the gentry 



250 TEE CRUISE OF TEE " CACEALOT." 

who swear at large about the evils of missionariea 
would have been loud in their disgust at the entire 
absence of drink and debauchery, and the prevalence 
of what they would doubtless characterize as adjective 
hypocrisy on the part of the natives; but no decent 
man could help rejoicing at the peace, the security, and 
friendliness manifested on every hand, nor help award- 
ing unstinted praise to whoever had been the means of 
bringing about so desirable a state of things. I felt 
that their Sabbatarianism was carried to excess ; that 
they would have been better, not worse, for a little less 
church, and a little more innocent fun ; but ten thousand 
times better thus than such scenes of lust let loose and 
abandoned animalism as we witnessed at Honolulu. 
What pleased me mightily was the absence of the white 
man with his air of superiority and sleek overlordship. 
All the worship, all the management of affairs, was 
entirely in the hands of the natives themselves, and 
excellently well did they manage everything. 

I shall never forget once going ashore in a somewhat 
similar place, but very far distant, one Sunday morning, 
to visit the mission station. It was a Church mission, 
and a very handsome building the church was. By 
the side of it stood the parsonage, a beautiful bungalow, 
nestling in a perfect paradise of tropical flowers. The 
somewhat intricate service was conducted, and the 
sermon preached, entirely by natives — very creditably 
too. After service I strolled into the parsonage to see 
the reverend gentleman in charge, whom I found 
supporting his burden in a long chair, with a tall glass 
of brandy and soda within easy reach, a fine cigar 
between his lips, and a late volume of Ouida's in his 
hand. All very pleasant and harmless, no doubt, but 
hardly reconcilable with the ideal held up in missionary 



** nUMPDACKINO'* AT VAU VAU. 251 

magazines. Yet I have no doubt whatever that this 
gentleman would have been heartily commended by the 
very men who can hardly find words harsh enough to 
express their opinion of missionaries of the stamp of 
Paton, Williams, Moffat, and Mackenzie. 

Well, it is highly probable — nay, almost certain, 
that I shall bo accused of drawing an idyllic picture of 
native life from first impressions, which, if I had only 
had sufficient subsequent experience among tlie people, 
I should have entirely altered. All I can say is, that 
although I did not live among them ashore, we had a 
number of them on board; we lay in the island harbour 
five months, during which I was ashore nearly every 
day, and from habit I observed them very closely ; yet 
I cannot conscientiously alter one syllable of what I 
have written concerning them. Bad men and women 
there were, of course, to be found — as where not ? — but 
the badness, in whatever form, was not allowed to 
flaunt itself, and was so sternly discountenanced by 
public (entirely native) opinion, that it required a good 
deal of interested seeking to find. 

But after all this chatter about my amiable friends, 
I find myself in danger of forgetting the purpose of our 
visit. We lost no time in preparation, since whaling 
of whatever sort is conducted in these ships on pre- 
cisely similar lines, but on Monday morning, at day- 
break, after a hurried breakfast, lowered all boats and 
commenced the compaign. We were provided with 
boxes — one for each boat — containing a light luncheon, 
but no ordered meal, because it was not considered 
advisable to in any way hamper the boat's freedom to 
chase. Still, in consideration of its being promptly 
dumped overboard on attacking a whale, a goodly 
quantity of fruit was permitted in the boats. 



252 TEE CRUISE OF THE " CACHALOT," 

In the calm beauty of the pearly dawn, with a gentle 
hush over all nature, the lofty, tree-clad hills reflected 
with startling fidelity in the glassy, many-coloured 
waters, the only sound audible the occasional cra-a-ake 
of the advance-guard of a flight of fruit-bats (peca) 
homeward from their nocturnal depredations, we shipped 
our oars and started, pulling to a certain position 
whence we could see over an immense area. Imme- 
diately upon rounding the horn of our sheltered bay, the 
fresh breeze of the south-east trades met us right on 
end with a vigour that made a ten-mile steady pull 
against it somewhat of a breather. Arriving at the 
station indicated by the chief, we set sail, and, separa- 
ting as far as possible without losing sight of each other, 
settled down for the day's steady cruise. Anything 
more delightful than that excursion to those who love 
seashore scenery combined with boat-sailing would be 
difficult to name. Every variety of landscape, every 
shape of strait, bay, or estuary, reefs awash, reefs over 
which we could sail, ablaze with loveliness inexpressible ; 
a steady, gentle, caressing breeze, and overhead one 
unvarying canopy of deepest blue. Sometimes, when 
skirting the base of some tremendous cliffs, great caution 
was necessary, for at one moment there would obtain a 
calm, death-like in its stillness ; the next, down through 
a canon cleaving the mountain to the water's edge 
would come rushing, with a shrill howl, a blast fierce 
enough to almost lift us out of the water. Away we 
would scud with flying sheets dead before it, in a 
smother of spray, but would hardly get full way on her 
before it was gone, leaving us in the same hush as before, 
only a dark patch on the water far to leeward marking 
its swift rush. These little diversions gave us no 
une?,siness, for it was an unknown thing to make a 



** nUMPBACKINQ"* AT VAU VAU. 253 

sheet fast in one of our boats, bo that a puff of wiml 
never caught us unprepared. 

On that first day we seemed to explore such a 
variety of stretches of water that one would hardly have 
expected there could be any more discoveries to make in 
that direction. Nevertheless, each day's cruise subse- 
quently revealed to us some new nook or other, some 
quiet haven or pretty passage between islands that, until 
closely approached, looked like one. When, at sunset, 
we returned to the ship, not having seen anything like a 
spout, I felt like one who had been in a dream, the day's 
cruise having surpassed all my previous experience. 
Yet it was but the precursor of many such. Oftentimes 
I think of those halcyon days, with a sigh of regret that 
they can never more be renewed to me ; but I rejoice to 
think that nothing can rob me of the memory of them. 

Much to the discomfort of the skipper, it was four 
days before a solitary spout was seen, and then it was 
so nearly dark that before the fish could be reached it 
was impossible to distinguish her whereabouts. A 
careful bearing was taken of the spot, in the hope that 
she might be lingering in the vicinity next morning, 
and we hastened on board. 

Before it was fairly light we lowered, and paddled 
as swiftly as possible to the bay where we had last seen 
the spout overnight. When near the spot we rested on 
our paddles a while, all hands looking out with intense 
eagerness for the first sign of the whale's appearance. 
There was a strange feeling among us of unlawfulness 
and stealth, as of ambushed pirates waiting to attack 
some unwary merchantman, or highwaymen waylaying 
a fat alderman on a country road. We spoke in 
whispers, for the morning was so still that a voice raised 
but ordinarily would have reverberated among the rocks 



254 THE CRUISE OF THE " CACHALOT:' 

which almost overhung us, multiplied indefinitely. A 
turtle rose ghost-like to the surface at my side, lifting 
his queer head, and, surveying us with stony gaze, 
vanished as silently as he came. 

What a sigh ! One looked at the other inquiringly, 
but the repetition of that long expiration satisfied us all 
that it was the placid breathing of the whale we sought 
somewhere close at hand. The light grew rapidly 
better, and we strained our eyes in every direction to 
discover the whereabouts of our friend, but for some 
minutes without result. There was a ripple just audible, 
and away glided the mate's boat right for the near shore. 
Following him with our eyes, we almost immediately 
beheld a pale, shadowy column of white, shimmering 
against the dark mass of the cliff not a quarter of a 
mile away. Dipping our paddles with the utmost care, 
we made after the chief, almost holding our breath. 
His harpooner rose, darted once, twice, then gave a yell 
of triumph that rang re-echoing all around in a thousand 
eerie vibrations, startling the drowsy ;peca in myriads 
from where they hung in inverted clusters on the trees 
above. But, for all the notice taken by the whale, she 
might never have been touched. Close nestled to her 
side was a youngling of not more, certainly, than five 
days old, which sent up its baby-spout every now and 
then about two feet into the air. One long, wing-like 
fin embraced its small body, holding it close to the 
massive breast of the tender mother, whose only care 
seemed to be to protect her young, utterly regardless of 
her own pain and danger. If sentiment were ever 
permittee? to interfere with such operations as ours, it 
might well have done so now; for while the calf 
continually sought to escape from the enfolding fin, 
making all sorts of puny struggles in the attempt, the 



*'nUMFBACKlNO'* AT VAU VAU. 255 

mother scarcely moved from her position, although 
Btreaming with hlood from a score of wounds. Once, 
indeed, as a deep-searching thrust entered her very 
vitals, she raised her massy flukes high in air with an 
apparently involuntary movement of agony; but even 
in that dire throe she remembered the possible danger 
to her young one, and laid the tremendous weapon as 
softly down upon the water as if it were a feather fan. 

So in the most perfect quiet, with scarcely a writhe, 
nor any sign of flurry, she died, holding the calf to her 
side until her last vital spark had fled, and left it to a 
swift despatch with a single lance-thrust. No slaughter 
of a lamb ever looked more like murder. Nor, when the 
vast bulk and strength of the animal was considered, 
could a mightier example have been given of the force 
and quality of maternal love. 

The whole business was completed in half an hour 
from the first sight of her, and by the mate's hand alone, 
none of the other boats needing to use their gear. As 
soon as she was dead, a hole was bored through the lips, 
into which a tow-line was secured, the two long fins 
were lashed close into the sides of the animal by an 
encircling line, the tips of the flukes were cut ofT, and 
away we started for the ship. We had an eight-mile 
tow in the blazing sun, which we accomplished in a httle 
over eight hours, arriving at the vessel just before 
two p.m. News of our coming had preceded us, and 
the whole native population appeared to be afloat to 
make us welcome. The air rang again with their 
shouts of rejoicing, for our catch represented to them a 
gorgeous feast, such as they had not indulged in for 
many a day. The flesh of the humpbacked whale is not 
at all bad, being but little inferior to that of the porpoise ; 
BO that, as these people do not despise even the coarse 



256 TEE CRUISE OF TEE " CACEALOT." 

rank flesh of the cachalot, their enthusiasm was natural. 
Their offers of help were rather embarrassing to us, as 
we could find little room for any of them in the boats, 
and the canoes only got in our way. Unable to assist 
us, they Tented their superfluous energies on the whale in 
the most astounding aquatic antics imaginable — diving 
under it ; climbing on to it ; pushing and rolling each 
other headlong over its broad back ; shrieking all the 
while with the frantic, uncontrollable laughter of happy 
children freed from all restraint. Men, women, and 
children all mixed in this wild, watery spree ; and as to 
any of them getting drowned, the idea was utterly 
absurd. 

Wheii we got it alongside, and prepared to cut in, 
all the chaps were able to have a rest, there were so 
many eager volunteers to man the windlass, not only 
willing, but, under the able direction of their com- 
patriots belonging to our crew, quite equal to the work 
of heaving in blubber. All their habitual indolence 
was cast aside. Toiling like Trojans, they made the old 
windlass rattle again as they spun the brakes up and 
down, every blanket-piece being hailed with a fresh 
volley of eldritch shrieks, enough to alarm a deaf and 
dumb asylum. 

With such ample aid, it was, as may be supposed, a 
brief task to skin our prize, although the strange 
arrangement of the belly blubber caused us to lift some 
disappointing lengths. This whale has the blubber 
underneath the body lying in longitudinal corrugations, 
which, when hauled off the carcass at right angles to 
their direction, stretch out flat to four or five times their 
normal area. Thus, when the cutting-blocks had reached 
their highest limit, and the piece was severed from the 
body, the folds flew together again, leaving dangling aloi^ 



** nCIMPBACKING '' AT VAU VAU, 257 

but a miserable square of some four or five feet, instead 
of a fine ** blanket " of blubber twenty by five. Along the 
edges of these rugast as also upon the rim of the lower 
jaw, abundance of limpets and barnacles had attached 
themselves, some of the former large as a horse's hoof, 
and causing prodigious annoyance to the toiling car- 
penter, whose duty it was to keep the spades ground. It 
was no unusual thing for a spade to be handed in with 
two or three gaps in its edge half an inch deep, where 
they had accidentally come across one of those big pieces 
of flinty shell, undistinguishable from the grey substance 
of the belly blubber. 

But, in spite of these drawbacks, in less than ninety 
minutes the last cut was reached, the vertebra severed, 
and away went the great mass of meat, in tow of count- 
less canoes, to an adjacent point, where, in eager antici- 
pation, fires were already blazing for the coming cookery. 
An enormous number of natives had gathered from far 
and near, late arrivals continually dropping in from all 
points of the compass with breathless haste. No danger 
of going short need have troubled them, for, large as 
were their numbers, the supply was evidently fully equal 
to all demands. All night long the feast proceeded, and, 
even when morning dawned, busy figures were still dis- 
cernible coming and going between the reduced carcass 
and the fires, as if determined to make an end of it 
before their operations ceased. 



258 THE CEUISE OF TEE "CACHALOT.'* 



CHAPTER XXI. 



It will probably be inferred from the foregoing paragraph 
that we were little troubled with visits from the natlvea 
next day ; but it would be doing them an injustice if I 
omitted to state that our various ** flems " put in an 
appearance as usual with their daily offerings of fruit, 
vegetables, etc. They all presented a somewhat jaded 
and haggard look, as of men who had dined not wisely 
but too well, nor did the odour of stale whale-meat that 
clung to them add to their attractions. Repentance for 
excesses or gluttony did not seem to trouble them, for 
they evidently considered it would have been a sin 
not to take with both hands the gifts the gods had so 
bountifully provided. Still, they did not stay long, feel- 
ing, no doubt, sore need of a prolonged rest after their 
late arduous exertions; so, after affectionate farewells, 
they left us again to our greasy task of trying- out. 

The cow proved exceedingly fat, making us, though 
by no means a large specimen, fully fifty barrels of oil. 
The whalebone (baleen) was so short as to be not worth 
the trouble of curing, so, with the exception of such pieces 
as were useful to the ** scrimshoners " for ornamenting 
their nicknacks, it was not preserved. On the evening 
of the third day the work was so far finished that we 



PROGRESS OF TUB "HUMPBACK'* SEASON. 259 

were able to go ashore for clothes washing, which 
necessary process was accompanied with a good deal of 
fun and hilarity. In the morning cruising was resumed 
again. 

For a couple of days wo met with no success, although 
we had a very aggravating chase after some smart bulls 
we fell in with, to our mutual astonishment, just as we 
rounded a point of the outermost island. They were 
lazily sunning themselves close under the lee of the cliffs, 
which at that point were steep-to, having a depth of 
about twenty fathoms close alongside. A fresh breeze 
was blowing, so we came round the point at a great pace, 
being almost among them before they had time to escape. 
They went away gaily along the land, not attempting to 
get seaward, we straining every nerve to get alongside of 
them. Whether they were tantalizing us or not, I cannot 
say, but certainly it looked like it. In spite of their well- 
known speed, we were several times so close in their wake 
that the harpooners loosed the tacks of the jibs to get a 
clear shot ; but as they did so the nimble monsters shot 
ahead a length or two, leaving us just out of reach. It 
was a fine chase while it lasted, though annoying ; yet 
one could hardly help feeling amused at the way they 
wallowed along — just like a school of exaggerated 
porpoises. At last, after nearly two hours of the fun, 
they seemed to have had enough of it, and with one 
accord headed seaward at a greatly accelerated pace, as 
who should say, **Well, s' long, boys; company's very 
pleasant and all that, but we've got important business 
over at Fiji, and can't stay fooling around here any 
longer." In a quarter of an hour they were out of 
Bight, leaving us disgusted and outclassed pursuers 
sneaking back again to shelter, feeling very small. Not 
that we could have had much hope of success under the 



2G0 TEE CRUISE OF TEE " CACEALOT."* 

circumstances, knowing the peculiar habits of the hump 
back and the almost impossibility of competing with him 
in the open sea ; but they had lured us on to forget all 
these things in the ardour of the chase, and then exposed 
our folly. 

Then ensued a week or two of uneventful cruising, 
broken only by the capture of a couple of cows — one just 
after the fruitless chase mentioned above, and one several 
days later. These events, though interesting enough to 
us, were marked by no such deviation from the ordinary 
course as to make them worthy of special attention ; nor 
do I think that the cold-blooded killing of a cow- whale, 
who dies patiently endeavouring to protect her young, 
is a subject that lends itself to eulogium. 

However, jusi when the delightful days were beginning 
to pall upon us, a real adventure befell us, which, had we 
been attending strictly to business, we should not have 
encountered. For a week previous we had been cruising 
constantly without ever seeing a spout, except those 
belonging to whales out at sea, whither we knew it was 
folly to follow them. We tried all sorts of games to 
while away the time, which certainly did hang heavy, 
the most popular of which was for the whole crew of the 
boat to strip, and, getting overboard, be towed along at 
the ends of short warps, while I sailed her. It was quite 
mythological — a sort of rude reproduction of Neptune and 
his attendant Tritons. At last, one afternoon as we were 
listlessly lolling (half asleep, except the look-out man) 
across the thwarts, we suddenly came upon a gorge 
between two cliffs that we must have passed before several 
times unnoticed. At a certain angle it opened, disclosing 
•a wide sheet of water, extending a long distance ahead. 
I put the helm up, and we ran through the passage, find- 
ing it about a boat's length in width and several fathoms 



FBOORESS OF TUE *' HUMPBACK'' SEASON. 261 

deep, though overhead the cliffs nearly came together in 
places. Within, the scene was very beautiful, but not 
more so than many similar ones we had previously 
witnessed. Still, as the place was new to us, our languor 
was temporarily dispelled, and we paddled along, taking 
in every feature of the shores with keen eyes that let 
nothing escape. After we had gone on in this placid 
manner for maybe an hour, we suddenly came to a 
stupendous cliff — that is, for those parts — rising almost 
sheer from the water for about a thousand feet. Of 
itself it would not have arrested our attention, but at its 
base was a semicircular opening, like the mouth of a 
small tunnel. This looked alluring, so I headed the 
boat for it, passing through a deep channel between two 
reefs which led straight to the opening. There was 
ample room for us to enter, as we had lowered the mast ; 
but just as we were passing through, a heave of the un- 
noticed swell lifted us unpleasantly near the crown of 
this natural arch. Beneath us, at a great depth, the 
bottom could be dimly discerned, the water being of the 
richest blue conceivable, which the sun, striking down 
through, resolved into some most marvellous colour- 
schemes in the path of its rays. A delicious sense of 
coolness, after the fierce heat outside, saluted us as we 
entered a vast hall, whose roof rose to a minimum height 
of forty feet, but in places could not be seen at all. A 
sort of diffused light, weak, but sufficient to reveal the 
general contour of the place, existed, let in, I supposed, 
through some unseen crevices in the roof or walls. At 
first, of course, to our eyes fresh from the fierce glare 
outside, the place seemed wrapped in impenetrable gloom, 
and we dared not stir lest we should run into some 
hidden danger. Before many minutes, however, the 
gloom lightened as our pupils enlarged, so that, although 



262 TEE CBUISE OF THE " CACHALOT:' 

the light was faint, we could find our way about with 
ease. We spoke in low tones, for the echoes were so 
numerous and resonant that even a whisper gave back 
from those massy walls in a series of recurring hisses, 
as if a colony of snakes had been disturbed. 

We paddled on into the interior of this vast cave, 
finding everywhere the walls rising sheer from the silent, 
dark waters, not a ledge or a crevice where one might 
gain foothold. Indeed, in some places there was a con- 
siderable overhang from above, as if a great dome whose 
top was invisible sprang from some level below the water. 
We pushed ahead until the tiny semicircle of light 
through which we had entered was only faintly visible ; 
^nd then, finding there was nothing to be seen except 
what we were already witnessing, unless we cared to go on 
into the thick darkness, which extended apparently into 
-the bowels of the mountain, we turned and started to go 
back. Do what we would, we could not venture to break 
the solemn hush that surrounded us as if we were shut 
within the dome of some vast cathedral in the twilight. 
So we paddled noiselessly along for the exit, till suddenly 
«.n awful, inexplicable roar set all our hearts thumping 
fit to break our bosoms. Keally, the sensation was most 
painful, especially as we had not the faintest idea whence 
the noise came or what had produced it. Again it filled 
that immense cave with its thunderous reverberations ; 
but this time all the sting was taken out of it, as we 
caught sight of its author. A goodly bull-humpback had 
found his way in after us, and the sound of his spout, 
exaggerated a thousand times in the confinement of 
that mighty cavern, had frightened us all so that we 
nearly lost our breath. So far, so good ; but, unlike the 
old nigger, though we were ** doin' blame well," we 
did not *'let blame well alone." The next epout that 



FBOORESS OF THE " nUMFBACK" SEASON, 263 

intruder gave, he was right alongside of us. This was 
too much for the semi-savage instincts of my gallant 
harpooner, and hefore I had time to shout a caution he 
had plunged his weapon deep into old Blowhard's broad 
back. 

I should Uke to describe what followed, but, in the 
first place, I hardly know ; and, in the next, even had I 
been cool and collected, my recollections would sound 
like the ravings of a fevered dream. For of all the 
hideous uproars conceivable, that was, I should think, 
about the worst. The big mammal seemed to have gone 
frantic with the pain of his wound, the surprise of the 
attack, and the hampering confinement in which he 
found himself. His tremendous struggles caused such 
a commotion that our position could only be compared 
to that of men shooting Niagara in a cylinder at night. 
How we kept afloat, I do not know. Some one had the 
gumption to cut the line, so that by the radiation of the 
disturbance we presently found ourselves close to the 
wall, and trying to hold the boat in to it with our finger 
tips. Would he never be quiet? we thought, as the 
thrashing, banging, and splashing still went on with un- 
failing vigour. At last, in, I suppose, one supremo effort 
to escape, he leaped clear of the water like a salmon. 
There was a perceptible hush, during which we shrank 
together like unfledged chickens on a frosty night ; then, 
in a never-to-be-forgotten crash that ought to have 
brought down the massy roof, that mountainous carcass 
fell. The consequent violent upheaval of the water 
should have smashed the boat against the rocky walls, 
but that final catastrophe was mercifully spared us. I 
suppose the rebound was sufficient to keep us a safe 
distance off. 

A perfect silence succeeded, during which we sat 



264 TEE CBUISE OF TEE " CACEALOTr 

speechless, awaiting a resumption of the clamour. At 
last Abner broke the heavy silence by saying, " I doan' 
see the do'way any mo* at all, sir.'* He was right. 
The tide had risen, and that half-moon of light had dis- 
appeared, so that we were now prisoners for many hours, 
it not being at all probable that we should be able to find 
our way out during the night ebb. Well, we were not 
exactly children, to be afraid of the dark, although there 
is considerable difference between the velvety darkness 
of a dungeon and the clear, fresh night of the open 
air. Still, as long as that beggar of a whale would only 
keep quiet or leave the premises, we should be fairly 
comfortable. We waited and waited until an hour had 
passed, and then came to the conclusion that our friend 
was either dead or gone out, as he gave no sign of his 
presence. 

That being settled, we anchored the boat, and lit pipes, 
preparatory to passing as comfortable a night as might 
be under the circumstances, the only thing troubling me 
being the anxiety of the skipper on our behalf. Presently 
the blackness beneath was lit up by a wide band of phos- 
phoric light, shed in the wake of no ordinary-sized fish, 
probably an immense shark. Another and another 
followed in rapid succession, until the depths beneath 
were all ablaze with brilliant foot-wide ribands of green 
glare, dazzling to the eye and bewildering to the brain. 
Occasionally, a gentle splash or ripple alongside, or a 
smart tap on the bottom of the boat, warned us how thick 
the concourse was that had gathered below. Until that 
weariness which no terror is proof against set in, sleep 
was impossible, nor could we keep our anxious gaze from 
that glowing inferno beneath, where one would have 
thought all the population of Tartarus were holding high 
revel. Mercifully, at last we sank into a fitful slumber, 



PROOBESS OF THE " BUMPBACK" SEASON. 265 

though fully aware of the great danger of our position. 
One upward rush of any of those ravening monsters, 
happening to strike the frail shell of our hoat, and a few 
fleeting seconds would have sufficed for our obliteration 
as if we had never been. 

But the terrible night passed away, and once more we 
saw the tender, irridescent light stream into that abode 
of dread. As the day strengthened, we were able to see 
what was going on below, and a grim vision it presented. 
The water was literally alive with sharks of enormous size, 
tearing with never-ceasing energy at the huge carcass 
of the whale lying on the bottom, who had met his fate 
in a singular but not unheard-of way. At that last 
titanic effort of his he had rushed downward with such 
terrific force that, striking his head on the bottom, he had 
broken his neck. I felt very grieved that we had lost the 
chance of securing him ; but it was perfectly certain that 
before we could get help to raise him, all that would be 
left on his skeleton would be quite valueless to us. So 
with such patience as we could command we waited near 
the entrance until the receding ebb made it possible for 
us to emerge once more into the blessed Hght of day. I 
was horrified at the haggard, careworn appearance of my 
crew, who had all, excepting the two Kanakas, aged per- 
ceptibly during that night of torment. But we lost no 
time in getting back to the ship, where I fully expected a 
severe wigging for the scrape my luckless curiosity had 
led me into. The captain, however, was very kind, ex- 
pressing his pleasure at seeing us all safe back again, 
although he warned me solemnly against similar investi- 
gations in future. A hearty meal and a good rest did 
wonders in removing the severe effects of our adventure, 
BO that by next morning we were all fit and ready for the 
day's work again. 



2(56 TEE CRUISE OF TEE '' CACEALOT^ 

It certainly seemed as if I was in for a regular series 
of trouHes. After cruising till nearly two p.m., we fell 
in with the mate's boat, and were sailing quietly along 
side by side, when we suddenly rounded a point and ran 
almost on top of a bull-humpback that was basking in 
the beautiful sunshine. The mate's harpooner, a 
wonderfully smart fellow, was not so startled as to lose 
his chance, getting an iron well home before the animal 
realized what had befallen him. We had a lovely fight, 
lasting over an hour, in which all the marvellous agility 
with which this whale is gifted was exerted to the full 
in order to make his escape. But with the bottom not 
twenty fathoms away, we were sure of him. With all his 
supple smartness, he had none of the dogged savagery of 
the cachalot about him, nor did we feel any occasion to 
beware of his rushes, rather courting them, so as to finish 
the game as quickly as possible. 

He was no sooner dead than we hurried to secure 
him, and had actually succeeded in passing the tow-line 
through his lips, when, in the trifling interval that passed 
while we were taking the line aft to begin towing, he 
started to sink. Of course it was, " Let go all ! " If you 
can only get the slightest way on a whale of this kind, 
you are almost certain to be able to keep him afloat, but 
once he begins to sink you cannot stop him. Down he 
went, till full twenty fathoms beneath us he lay com- 
fortably on the reef, while we looked ruefully at one 
another. We had no gear with us fit to raise him, and 
we were ten miles from the ship ; evening was at hand, so 
our prospects of doing anything that night were faint. 

However, the mate decided to start off for home at 
once, leaving us there, but promising to send back a boat 
as speedily as possible with provisions and gear for the 
morning. There was a stiff breeze blowing, and he was 



PROGRESS OF THE " BUMPRACK** SEASON. 267 

soon out of sight ; but we were very uncomfortable. The 
boat, of course, rode like a duck, but we were fully exposed 
to the open sea ; and the mighty swell of the Pacific, 
rolling in over those comparatively shallow grounds, 
sometimes looked dangerously like breaking. Still, it 
was better than the cave, and there was a good prospect 
of supper. Long before we expected her, back came the 
boat, bringing bountiful provision of yams, cold pork 
and fruit — a regular banquet to men who were fasting 
since daylight. A square meal, a comforting pipe, and 
the night's vigil, which had looked so formidable, no 
longer troubled us, although, to tell the truth, we were 
heartily glad when the dawn began to tint the east with 
pale emerald and gold. We set to work at once, getting 
the huge carcass to the surface without as much labour 
as I had anticipated. Of course all hands came to the 
rescue. 

But, alas for the fruit of our labours! Those 
hungry monsters had collected in thousands, and, to judge 
from what we were able to see of the body, they had 
reduced its value alarmingly. However, we commenced 
towing, and were getting along fairly well, when a long 
spur of reef to leeward of us, over which the sea was 
breaking frightfully, seemed to be stretching farther out 
to intercept us before we could get into smooth water. 
The fact soon faced us that we were in the remorseless 
grip of a current that set right over that reef, and against 
its steady stream all our efforts were the merest triviality. 
Still, we hung on, struggling desperately to keep what 
we had earned, until so close to the roaring, foaming line 
of broken water, that one wave breaking farther out than 
the rest very nearly swamped us all. One blow of an 
axe, one twirl of the steer-oars, and with all the force we 
could muster, we were pulling away from the very jaws 



268 THE CRUISE OF THE " CACEALOTy 

of death, leaving our whale to the hungry crowds, who 
would make short work of him. Downcast indeed, at 
our bad luck, we returned on board, disappointing the 
skipper very much with our report. Like the true 
gentleman he was though, recognizing that we had done 
our best, he did not add to the trouble by cursing us all 
for a set of useless trash, as his predecessor would have 
done ; on the contrary, a few minutes after the receipt 
of the bad news his face was as bright as ever, his 
laugh as hearty as if there was no such thing as a 
misfortune in the world. 

And now I must come to what has been on my mind 
so long — a tragedy that, in spite of all that had gone 
before, and of what came after, is the most indelible of 
all the memories which cling round me of that eventful 
time. Abner Gushing, the Vermonter, had declared at 
different times that he should never see his native Green 
Mountain again. Since the change in our commander, 
however, he had been another man — always silent and 
reserved, but brighter, happier, and with a manner so 
improved as to make it hard to recognize him for 
the same awkward, ungainly slab of a fellow that had 
bungled everything he put his hand to. Taking stock 
of him quietly during our day-long leisurely cruises in 
the boat, I often wondered whether his mind still kept 
its gloomy forebodings, and brooded over his tragical 
life-history. I never dared to speak to him on the 
subject, for fear of arousing what I hoped was growing 
too faint for remembrance. But at times I saw him 
in the moonlit evenings sitting on the rail alone, 
steadfastly gazing down into the star-besprent waters 
beneath him, as if coveting their unruffled peace. 

Two-thirds of our stay in the islands had passed 
way, when, for a wonder, the captain took it into his 




THE VAST FLUKES OF THE WHALE . . . SHORE OFF THE BOW OF THE 
ATTACKING BOAT. 



FROOBESS OF TEE '' UUMFBACK" SEASON. 269 

head to go up to tho chief village one morning. 
So he retained me on hoard, while the other three hoats 
left for the day's cruise as usual. One of the mate's 
crew was sick, and to replace him he took Abner out 
of my boat. Away they went ; and shortly after break- 
fast-time I lowered, received the captain on board, and 
we started for the capital. Upon our arrival there we 
interviewed the chief, a stout, pleasant-looking man of 
about fifty, who was evidently held in great respect by 
the natives, and had a chat with the white Wesleyan 
missionary in charge of the station. About two p.m., 
after the captain's business was over, we were returning 
under sail, when we suddenly caught sight of two of 
our boats heading in towards one of the islands. We 
helped her with the paddles to get up to them, seeing 
as we neared them the two long fins of a whale close 
ahead of one of them. As we gazed breathlessly at the 
exciting scene, we saw the boat rush in between the 
two flippers, the harpooner at the same time darting 
an iron straight down. There was a whirl in the waters, 
and quick as thought the vast flukes of the whale rose 
in the air, recurving with a sidelong sweep as of some 
gigantic scythe. The blow shore off the bow of the 
attacking boat as if it had been an egg-shell. 

At the same moment the mate stooped, picked up the 
tow-line from its turn round the loggerhead, and threw 
it forward from him. He must have unconsciously 
given a twist to his hand, for the line fell in a kink round 
Abner's neck just as the whale went down with a rush. 
Struggling, clutching at the fatal noose, the hapless 
man went flying out through the incoming sea, and in 
one second was lost to sight for ever. Too late, the 
harpooner cut the line which attached the wreck to the 
retreating animal, leaving the boat free, but gunwale 



270 TEE CRUISE OF TEE " CACEALOT." 

under. We instantly hauled alongside of the wreck and 
transferred her crew, all dazed and horror-stricken at 
the awful death of their late comrade. 

I saw the tears trickle down the rugged, mahogany- 
coloured face of the captain, and honoured him for it, 
hut there was little time to waste in vain regrets. It 
was necessary to save the boat, if possible, as we 
were getting short of boat-repairing material ; certainly 
we should not have been able to build a new one. So, 
drawing the two sound boats together, one on either side 
of the wreck, we placed the heavy steering oars across 
them from side to side. We then lifted the battered 
fore part upon the first oar, and with a big eJBfort 
actually succeeded in lifting the whole of the boat out 
of water upon this primitive pontoon. Then taking 
the jib, we " frapped " it round the opening where the 
bows had been, lashing it securely in that position. 
Several hands were told off to jump into her stern on 
the word, and all being ready we launched her again. 
The weight of the chaps in her stern-sheets cocked her 
bows right out of water, and in that position we towed 
her back to the ship, arriving safely before dusk. 

That evening we held a burial service, at which 
hundreds of natives attended with a solemnity of de- 
meanour and expressions of sorrow that would not 
have been out of place at the most elaborate funeral 
in England or America. It was a memorable scene. 
The big cressets were lighted, shedding their wild glare 
over the dark sea, and outlining the spars against the 
moonless sky with startling effect. When we had 
finished the beautiful service, the natives, as if swayed 
by an irresistible impulse, broke into the splendid tune 
St. Ann's ; and I afterwards learned that the words they 
sang were Dr. Watts' unsurpassable rendering of Moses* 



PR 00 BESS OF THE ** UUMPBACK'* SEASON. 271 

pean of praise, " God, our help in ages past.*' No 
elaborate ceremonial in towering cathedral could begin 
to compare with the massive simplicity of poor Abner's 
funeral honours, the stately hills for many miles re- 
iterating the sweet sounds, and carrying them to the 
farthest confines of the group. 

Next day was Sunday, and, in pursuance of a promise 
given some time before, I went ashore to my " flem's " 
to dinner, he being confined to the house with a hurt 
leg. It was not by any means a festive gathering, for 
he was more than commonly taciturn; his daughter 
Irene, a buxom lassie of fourteen, who waited on us, 
appeared to be dumb ; and his wife was ** in the straw." 
These trifling drawbacks, however, in nowise detracted 
from the hospitality offered. The dining-room was a 
large apartment furnished with leaves, the uprights of 
cocoa-nut tree, the walls and roof of pandanus leaf. 
Beneath the heaps of leaves, fresh and sweet-scented, 
was the earth. The inner apartment, or chamber of 
state, had a flooring of highly-polished planks, and con- 
tained, I presume, the household gods ; but as it was in 
possession of my host's secluded spouse, I did not enter- 

A couch upon a pile of leaves was hastily arranged, 
upon which I was bidden to seat myself, while a freshly- 
cut cocoa-nut of enormous size was handed to me, the 
soft top sliced off so that I might drink its deliciously 
cool contents. These nuts must grow elsewhere, but I 
have never before or since seen any so large. When 
green — that is, before the meat has hardened into in- 
digestible matter — they contain from three pints to two 
quarts of liquid, at once nourishing, refreshing, and 
palatable. The natives appeared to drink nothing else, 
and I never saw a drop of fresh water ashore during 
our stay. 



272 THE CRUISE OF THE " CACHALOT,'* 

Taking a huge knife from some hiding-place, Irene 
handed it to her father, who at once commenced to dig 
in the ground hy his side, while I looked on wondering 
and amused. Presently he fished up a bundle of leaves 
bound with a vine-tendril, which he laid carefully aside. 
More digging brought to light a fine yam about three 
pounds in weight, which, after carefully wiping the 
knife on some leaves, he proceeded to peek It was 
immediately evident that the yam was perfectly cooked, 
for it steamed as he removed the skin, revealing the 
inside as white as milk. Some large, round leaves were 
laid in front of me, and the yam placed upon them, 
Then mine host turned his attention to the bundle first 
unearthed, which concealed a chicken, so perfectly done 
that, although the bones drew out of the meat as if it 
had been jelly, it was full of juice and flavour ; and 
except for a slight foreign twang, referrible, doubtless, 
to the leaves in which it had been enwrapped, I do not 
think it could have been possible to cook anything in a 
better way, or one more calculated to retain all the natural 
juices of the meat. The fowl was laid beside the yam, 
another nut broached ; then, handing me the big knife, 
my " flem " bade me welcome^ informing me that I 
saw my dinner. As nothing would induce him to join 
me, the idea being contrary to his notions of respect due 
to a guest, I was fain to fall to, and an excellent meal 
I made. For dessert, a basketful of such oranges freshly 
plucked as cannot be tasted under any other conditions, 
and crimson bananas, which upon being peeled looked 
liked curved truncheons of golden jelly, after tasting 
which I refused to touch anything else. 

A corn-cob cigarette closed the banquet. After ex- 
pressing my thanks, I noticed that the pain of his leg 
was giving my friend considerable uneasiness, which he 



FROOIiESS OF THE "HUMPBACK" SEASON. 273 

was stolidly enduring upon my account rather than 
appear discourteously anxious to get rid of me. So 
with the excuse that I must needs be going, having 
another appointment, I left the good fellow and strolled 
around to the chapel, where I sat enjoying the sight 
of those simple-minded Kanakas at their devotions till 
it was time to return on board. Before closing this 
chapter, I would like, for the benefit of such of my 
readers who have not heard yet of Kanaka cookery, to 
say that it is simplicity itself. A hole is scooped in 
the earth, in which a fire is made (of wood), and kept 
burning until a fair-sized heap of glowing charcoal 
remains. Pebbles are then thrown in until the charcoal 
is covered. Whatever is to be cooked is enveloped in 
leaves, placed upon the pebbles, and more leaves heaped 
upon it. The earth is then thrown back into the cavity, 
and well stamped down. A long time is, of course, 
needed for the viands to get cooked through ; but sc 
subtle is the mode that overdoing anything is almo^ 
an impossibility. A couple of days may pass from the 
time of " putting down " the joint, yet when it is dug up 
it will be smoking hot, retaining all its juices, tender as 
jelly, but, withal, as full of flavour as it is possible for 
cooked meat to be. No matter how large the joint is, 
or how tough the meat, this gentle suasion will rendei 
it succulent and tasty ; and no form of civilized cookerj 
can in the least compare with it. 



274 TRE CBUISE OF THE " CACEALOT:^ 



CHAPTER XXII. 

FAREWELL TO VAU VAU. 

Taking it all round, our visit to the Friendly Islands 
had not been particularly fortunate up till the time of 
which I spoke at the conclusion of the last chapter. 
Two-thirds of the period during which the season was 
supposed to last had expired, but our catch had not 
amounted to more than two hundred and fifty barrels of 
oil Whales had been undoubtedly scarce, for our ill- 
success on tackling bulls was not at all in consequence 
of our clumsiness, these agile animals being always 
a handful, but due to the lack of cows, which drove us 
to take whatever we could get, which, as has been noted, 
was sometimes a severe drubbing. Energy and watch- 
fulness had been manifested in a marked degree by 
everybody, and when the news circulated that our stay 
was drawing to a close, there was, if anything, an increase 
of zeal in the hope that we might yet make a favourable 
season. 

But none of these valuable qualities exhibited by us 
could make up for the lack of "fish" which was 
lamentably evident. It was not easy to understand 
why, because these islands were noted as a breeding- 
place for the humpbacked whale. Yet for years they 
bad not been fished, so that a plausible explanation of 



FAREWELL TO VAU VAU. 275 

the paucity of their numbers aj a consequence of much 
harassing could not be reasonably offered. Still, after 
centuries of whale-fishing, little is known of the real 
habits of whales. Where there is abundance of ** feed," 
in the case of Mysticcta it may be reasonably inferred that 
whales may bo found in proportionately greater numbers. 
With regard to the wider-spread classes of the great 
marine mammalia, beyond the fact, ascertained from 
continued observation, that certain parts of the ocean 
are more favoured by them than others, there is 
absolutely no data to go upon as to why at times they 
seem to desert their usual haunts and scatter themselves 
far and wide. 

The case of the cachalot is still more diflScult. All 
the Balaense seem to be compelled, by laws which we 
can only guess at, to frequent the vicinity of land 
possessing shallows at their breeding times, so that they 
may with more or less certainty be looked for in such 
places at the seasons which have been accurately fixed. 
They may be driven to seek other haunts, as was 
undoubtedly the case at Vau Vau in a great measure, 
by some causes unknown, but to land they must come 
at those times. The sperm whale, however, needs no 
shelter at such periods, or, at any rate, does not avail 
herself of any. They may often be seen in the vicinity 
of land where the water is deep close to, but seldom 
with calves. Schools of cows with recently-born young 
gambolHng about them are met with at immense 
distances from land, showing no disposition to seek 
shelter either. For my part, I firmly believe that the 
cachalot is so terrible a foe, that the great sharks who 
hover round a gravid cow of the Balacnss, driving her in 
terror to some shallow spot where she may hope to 
protect her young, never dare to approach a sperm cow 



276 TEE CRUISE OF THE " CACHALOTS 

on kidnapping errands, or any other if they can help it, 
until their unerring guides inform them that life is 
extinct. When a sperm whale is in health, nothing 
that inhabits the sea has any chance with him ; neither 
does he scruple to carry the war into the enemy's 
country, since all is fish that comes to his net, and a 
shark fifteen feet in length has been found in the 
stomach of a cachalot. 

The only exception he seems to make is in the case 
of man. Instances have several — nay, many times 
occurred where men have been slain by the jaws of a 
cachalot crushing the boat in which they were ; but their 
death was of course incidental to the destruction of the 
boat. Never, as far as I have been able to ascertain, 
has a cachalot attacked a man swimming or clinging 
to a piece of wreckage, although such opportunities 
occur innumerably. I have in another place told the 
story of how I once saw a combat between a bull- 
cachalot and BO powerful a combination of enemies 
that even one knowing the fighting qualities of the 
sperm whale would have hesitated to back him to win, 
but the yarn will bear repetition. 

Two " killers " and a sword-fish, all of the largest size. 
Description of these warriors is superfluous, since they 
are so well known to museums and natural histories ; 
but unless one has witnessed the charge of a Xiphias, 
he cannot realize what a fearful foe it is. Still, as a 
practice, these creatures leave the cachalot respectfully 
alone, knowing instinctively that he is not their game. 
Upon this memorable occasion, however, I guess the two 
Orcas were starving, and they had organized a sort of 
forlorn hope with the Xiphias as an auxiliary who might 
be relied upon to ensure success if it could be done. 
Anyhow, the syndicate led o£f with their main force 



FAREWELL TO VAU VAU. 277 

first ; for while the two killers hung on the cachalot's 
flanks, diverting his attention, the sword-fish, a giant 
some sixteen feet long, launched himself at the most 
vulnerable part of the whale, for all the world like a 
Whitehead torpedo. The wary eye of the whale saw the 
long, dark mass coming, and, like a practised pugilist, 
coolly swerved, taking for the nonce no notice of those 
worrying wolves astern. The shock came ; but instead 
of the sword penetrating three, or maybe four feet just 
where the neck (if a whale has any neck) encloses the 
huge heart, it met the mighty, impenetrable mass of the 
head, soUd as a block of thirty tons of india-rubber. 

So the blow glanced, revealing a white streak 
running diagonally across the eye, while the great 
Xiphias rolled helplessly over the top of that black 
bastion. With a motion so rapid that the eye could 
scarcely follow it, the whale turned, settling withal, and, 
catching the momentarily motionless aggressor in the 
lethal sweep of those awful shears, crunched him in two 
halves, which writhing sections he swallowed seriatim. 
And the allied forces aft — what of them? Well, they 
had been rash — they fully realized that fact, and would 
have fled, but one certainly found that he had lingered 
on the scene too long. The thoroughly-roused leviathan, 
with a reversal of his huge bulk that made the sea boil 
like a pot, brandished his tail aloft and brought it down 
upon the doomed "killer," making him at once the 
"killed." He was crushed like a shrimp under one*8 
heel. 

The survivor fled — never faster — for an avalanche of 
living, furious flesh was behind him, and coming with 
enormous leaps half out of the sea every time. Thus 
they disappeared, but I have no doubts as to the 
issue. Of one thing I am certain — that, if any of 



278 TEE CRUISE OF THE " CACHALOT:- 

the trio survived, they never afterwards attempted to 
rush a cachalot. 

Strange to say, the sperm whale does not appear to 
be a fond mother. At the advent of danger she often 
deserts her offspring, and in such cases it is hardly 
conceivable that she ever finds it again. It is true that 
she is not gifted with such long " arms " as the Balaenas, 
wherewith to cuddle her young one to her capacious 
bosom while making tracks from her enemies; nor is 
she much " on the fight," not being so liberally furnished 
with jaw as the fierce and much larger bull — for this 
is the only species of whale in which there exists a great 
disproportion between the sexes in point of size. Such 
difference as may obtain between the Mysticeta is 
slightly in favour of the female. I never heard of a 
cow-cachalot yielding more than fifty barrels of oil ; but 
I have both heard of, and seen, bulls carrying one 
hundred and fifty. One individual taken by us down 
south was seventy feet long, and furnished us with 
more than the latter amount ; but I shall come to him 
by-and-by. Just one more point before leaving this 
(to me) fascinating subject for the present. 

To any one studying the peculiar configuration of a 
cachalot's mouth, it would appear a difficult problem 
how the calf could suck. Certainly it puzzled me more 
than a little. But, when on the ** line " grounds we got 
among a number of cows one calm day, I saw a little 
fellow about fifteen feet long, apparently only a few 
days old, in the very act. The mother lay on one 
side, with the breast nearly at the water's edge ; while 
the calf, lying parallel to its parent, with its head in 
the same direction, held the teat sideways in the 
angle of its jaw, with its snout protruding from the 
surface. Although we caught several cow-humpbacks 



FAREWELL TO VAU VAU. 279 

with nowly-born calves, I never had an opportunity 
of seeing thejn suck. 

Gradually our pleasant days at Vau Vau drew to a 
close. So quiet and idyllic had the life been, so full of 
simple joys, that most of us, if not all, felt a pang at 
the thought of our imminent departure from the 
beautiful place. Profitable, in a pecuniary sense, the 
season had certainly failed to be, but that was the merest 
trifle compared with the real happiness and peace- 
enjoyed during our stay. Even the terrible tragedy 
which had taken one of our fellows from us could not- 
spoil the actual enjoyment of our visit, sad and touching 
as the event undoubtedly was. There was always, too, 
a suflSciently arduous routine of necessary duties to 
perform, preventing us from degenerating into mere 
lotus eaters in that delicious afternoon-land. Nor even 
to me, friendless nomad as I was, did the thought ever 
occur, " I will return no more." 

But those lovely days spent in softly gliding over 
the calm, azure depths, bathed in golden sunlight,. 
gazing dreamily down at the indescribable beauties of 
the living reefs, feasting daintily on abundance of 
never-cloying fruit, amid scenes of delight hardly to be 
imagined by the cramped mind of the town dweller; 
islands, air, and sea all shimmering in an enchanted 
haze, and silence scarcely broken by the tender ripple 
of the gently-parted waters before the boat's steady keel 
— though these joys have all been lost to me, and 
I in ** populous city pent " endure the fading years, I 
would not barter the memory of them for more than I 
can say, so sweet it is to me. And, then, our relations 
with the natives had been so perfectly amicable, so free 
trom anything to regret. Perhaps this simple state- 
ment will raise a cynical smile upon the lips of those 



280 TEE CRUISE OF THE " CACnALOT." 

who know Tahiti, the New Hebrides," and kindred spots 
with all their savage, bestial orgies of alternate unbridled 
lust and unnamable cruelty. Let it be so. For my 
part, I rejoice that I have no tale of weeks of drunken- 
ness, of brutal rape, treacherous murder, and almost 
unthinkable torture to tell. 

For of such is the paradise of the beach-comber, 
and the hell of the clean man. Not that I have been 
able to escape it altogether. When I say that I once 
shipped, unwittingly, as sailing-master of a little white 
schooner in Noumea, bound to Apia, finding when too 
late that she was a ** blackbirder *' — " labour vessel," 
the wise it call — nothing more will be needed to convince 
the initiated that I have moved in the *'nine circles" 
of Polynesia. 

Some time before the day fixed for our departure, we 
were busy storing the gifts so liberally showered upon us 
by our eager friends. Hundreds of bunches of bananas, 
many thousands of oranges, yams, taro, chillies, fowls, 
and pigs were accumulated, until the ship looked like a 
huge market-boat. But we could not persuade any of 
the natives to ship with us to replace those whose con- 
tract was now expiring. Samuela and Polly were, after 
much difficulty, prevailed upon by me to go with us to 
New Zealand, much to my gratification ; but still we were 
woefully short-handed. At last, seeing that there was no 
help for it, the skipper decided to run over to Futuna, or 
Horn Island, where he felt certain of obtaining recruits 
without any trouble. He did so most unwillingly, as may 
well be believed, for the new-comers would need much 
training, while our present Kanaka auxiliaries were the 
Bmartest men in the ship. 

The slop-chest was largely drawn upon, to the credit 
of the crew, who wished in some tangible way to show 



FAREWELL TO VAU VAU. 281 

their appreciation of the unremitting kindness shown 
them hy their dusky friends. Not a whisper had heen 
uttered by any native as to desire of remuneration for 
what he had given. If they expected a return, they cer- 
tainly exercised great control over themselves in keeping 
their wishes quiet. But when they received the clothing, 
all utterly unsuited to their requirements as it was, their 
beaming faces eloquently proclaimed the reality of their 
joy. Heavy woollen shirts, thick cloth trousers and 
jackets, knitted socks ; but acceptable beyond all was a 
pilot-suit — warm enough for the Channel in winter. 
Happy above all power of expression was he who 
secured it. With an eared cloth cap and a pair of 
half-boots, to complete his preposterous rig, no Bond 
Street exquisite could feel more calmly conscious of 
being a well-dressed man than he. From henceforth 
be would be the observed of all observers at chapel on 
Sunday, exciting worldly desires and aspirations among 
his cooler but coveting fellow-worshippers. 

The ladies fared very badly, until the skipper, with 
a twinkling eye, announced that he had ** dug up " some 
rolls of ** cloth '* (calico), which he was prepared to 
supply us with at reasonable rates. Being of rather 
pretty pattern, it went off like hot pies, and as the 
** fathoms ** of gaudy, flimsy material were distributed 
to the delighted fafines, their shrill cries of gratitude 
were almost deafening. 

Inexorable time brought round the morning of our 
departure. Willing hands lifted our anchor, and hoisted 
the sails, so that we had nothing to do but look on. A 
scarcely perceptible breeze, stealing softly over the tree- 
tops, filled our upper canvas, sparing us the labour of 
towing her out of the little bay where we had lain so 
long, and gradually wafted us away from its lovely shores. 



282 TEE CRUISE OF TEE ''CACHALOT'' 

amid the fast-flowing tears of the great crowd. With 
multitudinous cries of *' Ofa, al-ofa, papalang " ringing 
in our ears (" Good-bye ; good-bye, white man "), we 
rounded the point, and, with increasing pace, bore away 
through the outlying islands for the open sea. There was 
a strong trade blowing, making the old barky caper like 
a dancing-master, which long unfamiliar motion almost 
disagreed with some of us, after our long quiet. Under 
its hastening influence we made such good time that 
before dinner Yau Van had faded into nothingness, 
mingling like the clouds with the soft haze on the 
horizon, from henceforth only a memory. 

We were not a very cheerful crowd that night, most 
of us being busy with his own reflections. I must 
confess that I felt far greater sorrow at leaving Vau Vau 
than ever I did at leaving England; because by the 
time I was able to secure a berth, I have usually drank 
pretty deep of the bitter cup of the " outward bounder, " 
than whom there is no more forlorn, miserable creature 
on earth. No one but the much abused boarding-master 
will have anything to do with him, and that worthy 
is generally careful to let him know that he is but a 
hanger-on, a dependant on sufferance for a meal, and 
that his presence on shore is an outrage. As for the 
sailors* homes, I have hardly patience to speak of them. 
I know the sailor is usually a big baby that wants pro- 
tecting against himself, and that once within the four 
walls of the institution he is safe ; but right there com- 
mendation must end. Why are good folks ashore syste- 
matically misled into the belief that the sailor is an object 
of charity, and that it is necessary to subscribe contin- 
ually and liberally to provide him with food and shelter 
when ashore ? Most of the contributors would be sur- 
prised to know that the cost of board and lodging at the 



FAREWELL TO VAU VAU. 283 

** home " is precisely the same as it is outside, and much 
higher than a landsman of the same grade can live 
for in better style. With the exception of the sleeping 
accommodation, most men prefer the boarding-house, 
where, if they preserve the same commercial status 
which is a sine qua non at the " home," they are treated 
like gentlemen; but in what follows lies the essential 
difference, and the reason for this outburst of mine, 
smothered in silence for years. An ** outward bounder " 
— that is, a man whose money is exhausted and who is 
living upon the credit of his prospective advance of pay 
— is unknown at the ** home." No matter what the con- 
dition of things is in the shipping world ; though the man 
may have fought with energy to get his discharge ac- 
cepted among the crowd at the ** chain-locker ; " though 
he be footsore and weary with ** looking for a ship," when 
his money is done, out into the street he must go, if 
haply he may find a speculative boarding-master to 
receive him. This act, although most unHkely in ap- 
pearance, is often performed ; and though the boarding- 
master, of course, expects to recoup himself out of the 
man's advance note, it is none the less as merciful as 
the action of the ** home " authorities is merciless. Of 
course a man may go to the ** straw house," or, as it is 
grandiloquently termed, the "destitute seaman's asylum," 
where for a season he will be fed on the refuse from 
the " homo," and sheltered from the weather. But the 
ungrateful rascals do not like the ** straw house," and 
use very bad language about it. 

The galling thing about the whole affair is that the 
** sailors' home " figures in certain official pubhcations 
as a charity, which must be partially supported by outside 
contributions. It may be a charitable institution, but 
it certainly is not so to the sailor, who pays fully for 



284 TEE CRUISE OF THE " CACHALOT:* 

everything he receives. The charity is hestowed upon 
a far different class of people to merchant Jack. Let it 
be granted that a man is sober and provident, always 
getting a ship before his money is all gone, he will pro- 
bably be well content at the home, although very few 
seamen like to be reminded ashore of their sea routine, 
as the manner of the home is. If the institution does 
not pay a handsome dividend, with its clothing shops 
and refreshment bars, as well as the boarding-house 
business on such a large scale, only one inference can 
be fairly drawn — there must be something radically 
wrong with the management. 

After this burst of temper, perhaps I had better get 
back to the subject in hand. It was, I suppose, in the 
usual contrary nature of things that, while we were 
all in this nearly helpless condition, one evening just 
before sunset, along comes a sperm whale. Now, the 
commonest prudence would have suggested letting him 
severely alone, since we were not only short-handed, but 
several of our crew were completely crippled by large boils; 
but it would have been an unprecedented thing to do 
while there was any room left in the hold. Consequently 
we mustered the halt and the lame, and manned two 
boats — all we could do — leaving the almost useless 
cripples to handle the ship. Not to displace the rightful 
harpooner, I took an oar in one of them, headed by the 
captain. 

At first my hopes were high that we should not 
succeed in reaching the victim before dark, but I was 
grievously disappointed in this. Just as the whale was 
curving himself to sound, we got fairly close, and the 
harpooner made a *' pitch-pole " dart ; that is, he hurled 
his weapon into the air, where it described a fine curve, 
^nd fell point downward on the animal's back just as 



FAREWELL TO VAU VAU. 285 

he was disappearing. He stopped bis descent imme- 
aiately, and turned savagely to see what had struck 
him so unexpectedly. At that moment the sun went 
down. 

After the first few minutes' ** kick-up/' he settled down 
for a steady run, but not before the mate got good and 
fast to him likewise. Away we went at a rare rate into 
the gathering gloom of the fast-coming night. Now, had 
it been about the time of full moon or thereabouts, we 
should doubtless have been able, by the flood of molten 
light she sends down in those latitudes, to give a good 
account of our enemy ; but alas for us, it was not. The 
sky overhead was a deep blue-black, with steely sparkles 
of starlight scattered all over it, only serving to accentuate 
the darkness. After a short time our whale became 
totally invisible, except for the phosphoric glare of the 
water all around him as he steadily ploughed his way 
along. There was a good breeze blowing, which soon 
caused us all to be drenched with the spray, rendering 
the general effect of things cold as well as cheerless. 
Needless to say, we strove with all our might to get 
alongside of him, so that an end might be put to so 
unpleasant a state of affairs ; but in our crippled condition 
it was not at all easy to do so. 

We persevered, however, and at last managed to get 
near enough for the skipper to hurl a lance into the 
brightness of which the whale formed the centre. It 
must have touched him, for he gave a bound forward and 
disappeared. We suddenly came to a standstill, but in 
a moment were whirled round as if on a pivot, and away 
we went in the opposite direction. He had turned a com- 
plete somersault in the water beneath us, giving us a 
** grue " as we reflected what would have happened had 
he then chosen to come bounding to the surface. This 



286 THE CRUISE OF TEE " CACHALOT." 

manoeuvre seemed to please him mightily, for he ran at 
top speed several minutes, and then repeated it. This 
time he was nearly successful in doing us some real 
harm, for it was now so dark that we could hardly see 
the other boat's form as she towed along parallel to us 
about three or four lengths away. The two boats swung 
round in a wide circle, rushing back at each other out of 
the surrounding darkness as if bent on mutual destruc- 
tion. Only by the smartest manipulation was a collision 
avoided, which, as each boat's bows bristled with lances 
and harpoons, would have been a serious matter for 
some of us. However, the whale did not have it all his 
own way, for the skipper, having charged his bomb-gun, 
patiently laid for him, and fired. It was rather a long 
shot, but it reached him, as we afterwards ascertained, 
making an ugly wound in the small near his tail. 

Its effect upon him was startling and immediate. He 
rushed off at so furious a rate dead to windward that 
for a great while we had all our work cut out to keep 
her free by baling. The sea had risen a little, and as 
we leapt from one wave to another the spray flew over 
us in an almost continuous cloud. Clearly our situation 
was a parlous one. We could not get near him ; we 
were becoming dangerously enfeebled, and he appeared 
to be gaining strength instead of losing it. Besides all 
this, none of us could have the least idea of how the ship 
now bore from us, our only comfort being that, by obser- 
vation of the Cross, we were not making a direct course, 
but travelling on the circumference of an immense circle. 
Whatever damage we had done to him so far was evi- 
dently quite superficial, for, accustomed as we were to 
tremendous displays of vigour on the part of these 
creatures, this specimen fairly surprised us. 

The time could only be guessed at ; but, judging from 



FAREWELL TO VAU VAU, 287 

our feelings, it might have been two or three nights long. 
Still, to all things an end, so in the midst of our dogged 
endurance of all this misery we felt the pace give, and 
took heart of grace immediately. Calling up all our 
reserves, we hauled up on to him, regardless of pain or 
weariness. The skipper and mate lost no opportunities 
of lancing, once they were alongside, but worked like 
heroes, until a final plunging of the fast-dying leviathan 
warned us to retreat. Up he went out of the glittering 
foam into the upper darkness, while we held our breath 
at the unique sight of a whale breaching at night. But 
when he fell again, the effect was marvellous. Green 
columns of water arose on either side of the descending 
mass as if from the bowels of the deep, while their ghostly 
glare lit up the encircling gloom with a strange, weird 
radiance, which, reflected in our anxious faces, made us 
look like an expedition from the Flying Dutchman. A 
short spell of gradually-quieting struggle succeeded as 
the great beast succumbed, until all was still again, 
except the strange, low surge made by the waves as they 
broke over the bank of flesh passively obstructing their 
free sweep. 

"While the final touch was being given to our task — 
i.e. the hole-boring through the tail-fin — all han.^s lay 
around in various picturesque attitudes, enjoying a 
refreshing smoke, care forgetting. "While thus pleasantly 
employed, sudden death, like a bolt from the blue, leapt 
into our midst in a terrible form. The skipper was 
labouring hard at his task of cutting the hole for the 
tow-line, when without warning the great fin swung back 
as if suddenly released from tremendous tension. 
Happily for us, the force of the blow was broken by 
its direction, as it struck the water before reaching the 
boat's side, but the upper lobe hurled the boat-spade 



288 THE CRUISE OF THE *" CACHALOT:' 

from the captain's hands back into our midst, where it 
struck the tub oarsman, splitting his head in two halves. 
The horror of the tragedy, the enveloping darkness, the 
inexplicable revivifying of the monster, which we could 
not have doubted to be dead, all combined to stupefy 
and paralyze us for the time. Not a sound was heard 
in our boat, though the yells of inquiry from our com- 
panion craft arose in increasing volume. It was but 
a brief accession of energy, only lasting two or three 
minutes, when the whale collapsed finally. Having 
recovered from our surprise, we took no further chances 
with so dangerous an opponent, but bored him as full 
of holes as a colander. 

Mournful and miserable were the remaining hours 
'of our vigil. We sat around poor Miguel's corpse with 
unutterable feelings, recalling all the tragical events of 
the voyage, until we reached the nadir of despondency. 
"With the rosy light of morning came more cheerful 
feelings, heightened by the close proximity of the ship, 
from which it is probable we had never been more than 
ten miles distant during the whole night. She had 
sighted us with the first light, and made all sail down to 
us, all hands much relieved at our safety. We were 
so sorely exhausted that we could hardly climb on board ; 
and how we hoisted the boats, I hardly know. The whale 
was secured by the efibrts of the cripples we had left on 
board, while we wayfarers, after a good meal, were 
allowed four hours' sound, sweet sleep. 

When we returned to our duties, the first thing that 
awaited us was the burial of the poor body. Very 
reverently were the last sad offices performed, the flag 
hoisted half-mast, the bell solemnly tolled. Then we 
gathered at the gangway while the eternal words of 
hope and consolation were falteringly read, and with a 



FAREWELL TO VAU VAU. 289 

sudden pluuge the long, straight parcel slid oS the hatch 
into the vast tomh ever ready for the dead sailor. 

Our dead out of sight, work claimed all our attention 
and energy, wiping out with its heneficent influence all 
gloomy musings over the inevitable, and replacing them 
with the pressing needs of life. The whale was not a 
large one, but peculiar to look at. Like the specimen 
that fought so fiercely with us in the Indian Ocean, its 
jaw was twisted round in a sort of hook, the part that 
curved being so thickly covered with long barnacles as 
to give the monster a most eerie look. One of the 
Portuguese expressed his decided opinion that we had 
caught Davy Jones himself, and that, in consequence, 
we should have no more accidents. It was impossible 
not to sympathize with the conceit, for of all the queer- 
looking monstrosities ever seen, this latest acquisition of 
ours would have taken high honours. Such malforma- 
tions of the lower mandible of the cachalot have often 
been met with, and variously explained; but the most 
plausible opinion seems to be that they have been 
acquired when the animal is very young, and its bones 
not yet indurated, since it is impossible to believe that 
an adult could suffer such an accident without the broken 
jaw drooping instead of being turned on one side. 

The yield of oil was distressingly scanty, the whale 
being what is technically known as a ** dry skin." The 
blubber was so hard and tough that we could hardly cut 
it up for boiling, and altogether it was one of the most 
disappointing affairs we had yet dealt with. This poor- 
ness of blubber was, to my mind, undoubtedly due to the 
difficulty the animal must have had in obtaining food 
with his disabling defect of jaw. Whatever it was, we 
were heartily glad to see the last of the beast, fervently 
hoping we should never meet with another like him. 



290 THE CRUISE OF TEE " CACHALOT,*' 

During the progress of these melancholy operations 
we had drifted a considerable distance out of our course, 
no attention being paid, as usual, to the direction of our 
drift until the greasy work was done. Once the mess 
was cleared away, we hauled up again for our objective — 
Futuna — which, as it was but a few hours' sail distant, 
we hoped to make the next day. 



( 291 ) 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

AT FUTUNA, RECBUITINO. 

Sure enough, in accordance with our expectations, break 
of day revealed the twin masses of Futuna ahead, some 
ten or fifteen miles away. With the fine, steady breeze 
blowing, by breakfast-time we were off the entrance to a 
pretty bight, where sail was shortened and the ship hove- 
to. Captain Count did not intend to anchor, for reasons 
of his own, he being assured that there was no need 
to do so. Nor was there. Although the distance from 
the beach was considerable, we could see numbers of 
canoes putting off, and soon they began to arrive. Now, 
some of the South Sea Islands are famous for the 
elegance and seaworthiness of their canoes ; nearly all of 
them have a distinctly definite style of canoe-building ; 
but here at Futuna was a bewildering collection of almost 
every type of canoe in the wide world. Dugouts, with 
outriggers on one side, on both sides, with none at all ; 
canoes built like boats, like prams, like irregular egg- 
boxes, many looking like the first boyish attempt to 
knock something together that would float ; and — not to 
unduly prolong the list by attempted classification of 
these unclassed craft — coracles. Yes ; in that lonely 
Pacific island, among that motley crowd of floating 
nondescripts, were specimens of the ancient coracle of 
our own islands, constructed in exactly the same way ; 



292 THE CRUISE OF TEE ''CACHALOT:' 

that is, of wicker-work, covered with some waterproof 
substance, whether skin or tarpaulin. But the ingenious 
Kanaka, not content with his coracles, had gone one 
better, and copied them in dugouts of solid timber. The 
resultant vessel was a sort of cross between a butcher's 
tray and a wash-basin — 

" A thing beyond 
Conception : such a wretched wherry, 
Perhaps ne'er ventured on a pond, 
Or crossed a ferry." 

The proud possessors of the coracles, both wicker and 
wood, must have been poor indeed, for they did not even 
own a paddle, propelling their basins through the water 
with their hands. It may be imagined what a pace they 
put on ! At a little distance they were very puzzling, 
looking more like a water-beetle grown fat and lazy than 
aught else. 

And BO, in everything floatable, the whole male 
population of that part of the coast came to visit us. 
We were speedily the centre of a great crowd of canoes, 
some of which were continually capsizing and spilling 
their occupants, who took no more notice of such inci- 
dents than one would of a sneeze. Underneath a canoe, 
or on top, made but little difference to these amphibious 
creatures. They brought nothing with them to trade ; 
in fact, few of their vessels were capable of carrying 
anything that could not swim and take care of itself. 
As they came on board, each crossed himself more or 
less devoutly, revealing the teaching of a Eoman Catholic 
mission ; and as they called to one another, it was not 
hard to recognize, even in their native garb, such names 
as Erreneo (Irenaeus), Al'seo (Aloysius), and other 
favourite cognomens of saints. 

A laughing, chattering, good-tempered crowd they 



AT FUTUNA, RECRUITING. 293 

were — just like a bevy of children breaking up, and 
apparently destitute of the slightest sense of responsi- 
bility. They spoke a totally different dialect, or maybe 
language, to that of Vau Vau, for it was only an 
isolated word here and there that Samuela could make 
out. But presently, going forward through the crowd 
that thronged every part of the deck, I saw a man 
leaning nonchalantly against the rail by the fore -rigging, 
who struck me at once as being an American negro. 
The most casual observer would not have mistaken him 
for a Kanaka of those latitudes, though he might have 
passed as a Papuan. He was dressed in all the dignity 
of a woollen shirt, with a piece of fine "tapa" for a 
waistcloth, feet and legs bare. Around his neck was 
a necklace composed of a number of strings of blue and 
white beads plaited up neatly, and carrying as a pendant 
a George shilling. Going up to him, I looked at the 
coin, and said, " BeUtani money ? " ** Oh yes," he said, 
"that's a shilling of old Georgey Fourf," in perfectly 
good English, but with an accent which quite confirmed 
my first idea. I at once invited him aft to see the 
skipper, who was very anxious to find an interpreter 
among the noisy crowd, besides being somewhat uneasy 
at having so large a number on board. 

To the captain's interrogations he replied that he 
was " Tui Tongoa " — that is. King of Tongoa, an island 
a little distance away — but that he was at present under 
a cloud, owing to the success of a usurper, whom he 
would reckon with by-and-by. 

In the mean time he would have no objection to 
engaging himself with us as a harpooner, and would 
get us as many men as we wanted, selecting from 
among the crowd on board, fellows that would, he 
knew, be useful to as. 



294 TEE CRUISE OF THE " CACHALOT." 

A bargain was soon struck, and Tui entered upon 
his self-imposed task. It was immediately evident that 
he had a bigger contract on hand than he had imagined. 
The natives, who had previously held somewhat aloof 
from him in a kind of deferential respect, no sooner got 
wind of the fact that we needed some of them than 
they were seized with a perfect frenzy of excitement. 
There were, I should think, at least a hundred and 
fifty of them on board at the time. Of this crowd, 
every member wanted to be selected, pushing his 
candidature with voice and gesture as vigorously as 
he knew how. The din was frightful. Tui, centre of 
the frantic mob, strove vainly to make himself heard, 
to reduce the chaos to some sort of order, but for a 
great while it was a hopeless attempt. At last, extri- 
cating himself from his importunate friends, he gained 
the captain's side. Panting, almost breathless, with 
sweat streaming off him, he gasped out, "Oh, cap*n, 
dese yer darn niggers all gone mad ! Bribe 'em ober- 
bord ; clar 'em out, *n I'll stan' by to grab some o' der 
likely ones as de res* scatter." " But what about the 
wages ? " said the skipper. " I'm not goin' ter give 'em 
whatever they like to ask." "You leab it ter me, 
cap'n. I bet you'll be satisfy. Anyhow, dishyers no 
time fer tradin' ; de blame niggers all off dere coco-nuts. 
Anybody fink you'se payin' off *stead o' shippin', an' 
deyse all afraid dey won't get 'nough." 

Unpleasant as the job was to all of us, it had to be 
done; so we armed ourselves with ropes'-ends, which 
we flourished threateningly, avoiding where possible 
any actual blows. Many sprang overboard at once, 
finding their way ashore or to their canoes as best they 
could. The majority, however, had to swim, for we 
now noticed that, either in haste or from carelessness. 



AT FUTUNA, RECRUITING, 295 

they bad in most cases omitted to fasten their canoes 
securely when coming alongside, so that many of them 
were now far out to sea. The distance to shore being 
under three miles, that mattered little, as far as their 
personal safrty was concerned. 

This summary treatment was eminently successful, 
quiet being rapidly restored, so that Tui was able to 
select a dozen men, who he declared were the best in 
the islands for our purpose. Although it seems some- 
what premature to say so, the general conduct of the 
successful candidates was so good as to justify Tui 
fully in his eulogium. Perhaps his presence had 
something to do with it ? 

We now had all that we came for, so that we were 
anxious to be off. But it was a job to get rid of the 
visitors still remaining on board. They stowed them- 
eelves away in all manner of corners, in some cases 
ludicrously inadequate as hiding-places, and it was not 
until we were nearly five miles from the land that the 
last of them plunged into the sea and struck out for 
home. It was very queer. Ignorant of our destination, 
of what would be required of them ; leaving a land of 
ease and plenty for a certainty of short commons and 
hard work, without preparation or farewells, I do not 
think I ever heard of such a strange thing before. Had 
their home been famine or plague-stricken, they could 
not have evinced greater eagerness to leave it, or to 
face the great unknown. 

As we drew farther off the island the wind freshened, 
until we had a good, whole-sail breeze blustering behind 
us, the old ship making, with her usual generous fuss, 
a tremendous rate of seven knots an hour. Our course 
was shaped for the southward, towards the Bay of 
Islands, New Zealand. In that favourite haunt of the 



296 TEE CEUISE OF TEE " CACEALOTy 

South-seaman we were to wood and water, find letters 
from home (those who had one), and prepare for the 
stormy south. 

Obviously the first thing to be done for our new 
shipmates was to clothe them. When they arrived 
on board, all, with the single exception of Tui, were 
furnished only with a " maro " of ** tapa," scanty in its 
proportions, but still enough to wrap round their loins. 
But when they were accepted for the vacant positions 
on board, they cast off even the slight apology for 
clothing which they had worn, flinging the poor rags 
to their retreating and rejected compatriots. Thus they 
were strutting about, in native majesty unclad, which, 
of course, could not be endured among even so uncon- 
ventional a crowd as we were. So they were mustered 
aft, and, to their extravagant delight, a complete rig-out 
was handed to each of them, accompanied by graphic 
instructions how to dress themselves. Very queer they 
looked when dressed, but queerer still not long after- 
wards, when some of them, galled by the unaccustomed 
restraint of the trousers, were seen prowling about with 
shirts tied round their waists by the sleeves, and pants 
twisted turban- wise about their heads. Tui was called, 
and requested to inform them that they must dress 
properly, after the fashion of the white man, for that 
any impromptu improvements upon our method of 
clothes-wearing could not be permitted. As they were 
gentle, tractable fellows, they readily obeyed, and, 
though they must have suffered considerably, there 
were no further grounds for complaint on the score 
of dress. 

It has been already noticed that they were Roman 
Catholics — all except Tui, who from his superior mental 
elevation looked down upon their beliefs with calm 



AT FUTUNA, RECRUJTINO, 297 

contempt, although really a greater heathen than 
any of them had ever been. It was quite pathetic to 
see how earnestly they endeavoured to maintain the 
form of worship to which they had been accustomed, 
though how they managed without their priest, I could 
not iind out. Every evening they had prayers together, 
accompanied by many crossings and genuflexions, and 
wound up by the singing of a hymn in such queer Latin 
that it was almost unrecognizabla After much wonder- 
ing, I did manage to make out ** Salutaris Hostia ! " 
and " Tantum Ergo," but not until their queer pronun- 
ciation of consonants had become familiar. Some of 
the hymns were in their own tongue, only one of which 
I can now remember. Phonetically, it ran thus — 

" Mah-lee-ah, KoUyeea leekee ; 
Obsclloh mo mallamah. 
Alofah, keea ma toh ; 
Fab na oh, Mah lab ee ab " — 

which I understood to be a native rendering of "0 
Stella Maris ! " It was sung to the well-known "Proces- 
sional " in good time, and on that account, I suppose, 
fixed itself in my memory. 

Whenever any of them were ordered aloft, they 
never failed to cross themselves before taking to the 
rigging, as if impressed with a sense of their chance 
of not returning again in safety. To me was given 
the congenial task of teaching them the duties re- 
quired, and I am bound to admit that they were 
willing, biddable, and cheerful learners. Another 
amiable trait in their characters was especially notice- 
able : they always held everything in common. No 
matter how small the portion received by any one, 
it was scrupulously shared with the others who lacked. 



298 THE CRUISE OF THE " CACHALOT.'' 

and this subdivision was often carried to ludicroua 
lengths. 

As there was no reason to hurry south, we took a 
short cruise on the Vasquez ground, more, I think, for 
the purpose of training our recruits than anything else. 
As far as the results to our profit were concerned, we 
might almost as well have gone straight on, for we only 
took one small cow-cachalot. But the time spent thus 
cruising was by no means wasted. Before we left 
finally for New Zealand, every one of those Kanakas 
was as much at home in the whale-boats as he would 
have been in a canoe. Of course they were greatly 
helped by their entire familiarity with the water, which 
took from them all that dread of being drowned which 
hampers the white " greenie *' so sorely ; besides which, 
the absolute confidence they had in our prowess amongst 
the whales freed them from any fear on that head. 

Tui proved himself to be a smart harpooner, and 
was chosen for the captain's boat. During our con- 
versations, I was secretly amused to hear him allude to 
himself as Sam, thinking how little it accorded with his 
soi'disant Kanaka origin. He often regaled me with 
accounts of his royal struggles to maintain his rule, all 
of which narrations I received with a goodly amount of 
reserve, though confirmed in some particulars by the 
Kanakas, when I became able to converse with them. 
But I was hardly prepared to find, as I did many years 
after, upon looking up some detail in Findlay's " South 
Pacific Directory," this worthy alluded to as *'the 
celebrated Sam," in a brief account of Futuna. There 
he was said to be king of the twin isles ; so I suppose he 
lound means to oust his rival, and resume his sovereignty; 
though, how an American negro, as Sam undoubtedly 
was, ever managed to gain such a position, remains to 



AT FUTUNA, RECRUITS 0. 299 

me an nnfatbomable mystery. Certainly he did not 
reveal any such masterful attributes as one would have 
expected in him, while he served as harpooner on board 
the Cachalot, 

Gradually we crept south, until one morning we 
sighted the towering mass of Sunday Island, the prin- 
cipal member of the small Eermadec group, which lies 
nearly on the prime meridian of one hundred and 
eighty degrees, and but a short distance north of the 
extremity of New Zealand. We had long ago finished 
the last of our fresh provisions, fish had been very 
scarce, so the captain seized the opportunity to give us 
a run ashore, and at the same time instructed us to do 
such foraging as we could. It was rumoured that there 
were many wild pigs to be found, and certainly abund- 
ance of goats ; but if both these sources of supply failed, 
we could fall back on fish, of which we were almost sure 
to get a good haul. 

The island is a stupendous mass of rock, rising sheer 
from the waves, in some places to a height of fifteen 
hundred feet. These towering cliffs are clothed with 
verdure, large trees clinging to their precipitous sides in 
a marvellous way. Except at one small bight, known 
as Denham Bay, the place is inaccessible, not only from 
the steepness of its cliffs, but because, owing to its 
position, the gigantic swell of the South Pacific assails 
those immense bastions with a force and volume that 
would destroy instantly any vessel that unfortunately 
ventured too near. Denham Bay, however, is in some 
measure protected by reefs of scattered boulders, which 
break the greatest volume of the oncoming rollers. 
Within those protecting barriers, with certain winds, it 
is possible to effect a landing, with caution ; but even 
then no tyro in boat-handling should venture to do so. 



300 TEE CRUISE OF THE " CACHALOT.'* 

as the experiment would almost certainly be fatal to 
boat and crew. 

We hove-to off the little bay, the waters of which 
looked placid enough for a pleasure-party, lowered two 
boats well furnished with fishing gear and such other 
equipment as we thought would be needed, and pulled 
away for the landing-place. As we drew near the beach, 
we found that, in spite of the hindrance to the ocean 
swell afforded by the reefs, it broke upon the beach in 
rollers of immense size. In order to avoid any mishap, 
then, we turned the boats' heads to seaward, and gently 
backed towards the beach, until a larger breaker than 
usual came thundering in. As it rushed towards us, we 
pulled lustily to meet it, the lovely craft rising to its 
foaming crest hke sea-birds. Then, as soon as we were 
on its outer slope, we reversed the stroke again, coming 
in on its mighty shoulders at racing speed. The instant 
our keels touched the beach we all leapt out, and, 
exerting every ounce of strength we possessed, ran the 
boats up high and dry before the next roller had time to 
do more than hiss harmlessly around our feet. It was 
a task of uncommon difficulty, for the shore was wholly 
composed of loose lava and pumice-stone grit, into which 
we sank ankle-deep at every step, besides being exceed- 
ingly steep. 

We managed, however, to escape without any mishap, 
for the drenching was a boon to our burnt-up skins. 
Off we started along the level land, which, as far as I 
could judge, extended inland for perhaps a mile and a 
half by about two miles wide. From this flat shelf the 
cliffs rose perpendicularly, as they did from the sea. 
Up their sides were innumerable goat-tracks, upon some 
of which we could descry a few of those agile creatures 
climbing almost like flies. The plateau was thickly 



AT FUTUNA, BECBUITINO, 301 

wooded, many of the trees having been fruit-boaring 
once, but now, much to our disappointment, barren 
from neglect. 

A ruined house, surrounded by other vestiges of what 
had once been a homestead, stood in the middle of this 
piece of land. Feeling curious to know what the history 
of this isolated settlement might be, I asked the mate if 
he knew anything of it. He told me that an American 
named Halstead, with his family, lived here for years, 
visited only by an occasional whaler, to whom they sold 
such produce as they might have and be able to spare 
at the time. What their previous history had been, or 
why they thus chose to cut themselves off from the 
world, he did not know; but they seemed contented 
enough with their tiny kingdom, nor had any wish to 
leave it. But it came to pass that one night they felt 
the sure and firm- set earth trembling convulsively 
beneath their feet. Rushing out of their house, they 
saw the heavens bespread with an awful pall of smoke, 
the under-side of which was glowing with the reflected 
fires of some vast furnace. Their terror was increased 
by a smart shower of falling ashes and the reverbera- 
tions of subterranean thunders. At first they thought 
of flight in their boat, not reckoning the wide stretch of 
sea which rolled between them and the nearest land, 
but the height and frequency of the breakers then 
prevailing made that impossible. 

Their situation was pitiable in the extreme. During 
the years of peace and serenity they had spent here, no 
thought of the insecurity of their tenure had troubled 
them. Though they had but been dwellers on the 
threshold of the mountain, as it were, and any exten- 
sion of their territory impossible by reason of the 
insurmountable barrier around them, they had led an 



302 THE CRUISE OF TEE " CACHALOT,'' 

untroubled life, all unknowing of the fearful forces 
beneath their feet. But now they found the founda- 
tions of the rocks beneath breaking up ; that withering, 
incessant shower of ashes and scoriae destroyed all their 
crops ; the mild and delicate air changed into a heavy, 
sulphurous miasma ; while overhead the beneficent face 
of the bright-blue sky had become a horrible canopy of 
deadly black, about which played lurid coruscations of 
infernal fires. 

What they endured throughout those days and nights 
of woe, could never be told. They fled from the home 
they had reared with such abundance of loving labour, 
taking refuge in a cave ; for not even the knowledge that 
the mountain itself seemed to be in the throes of dis- 
solution could entirely destroy their trust in those 
apparently eternal fastnesses. Here their eldest son 
died, worried to death by incessant terror. At last a 
passing whaler, remembering them and seeing the con- 
dition of things, had the humanity and courage to stand 
in near enough to see their agonized signals of distress. 
All of them, except the son buried but a day or two 
before, were safely received and carried away, leaving 
the terrible mountain to its solitude. 

As I listened, I almost involuntarily cast my eyes 
upwards ; nor was I at all surprised to see far overhead 
a solitary patch of smoky cloud, which I believe to have 
been a sure indication that the volcano was still liable 
to commence operations at any time. 

So far, we had not happened upon any pigs, or goats 
either, although we saw many indications of the latter 
odoriferous animal. There were few sea-birds to be 
seen, but in and out among the dense undergrowth 
ran many short- legged brown birds, something like a 
partridge — the same, I believe, as we afterwards became 



AT FUTUNA, RECRUITING. 303 

familiar with in Stewart's Island by the name of " Maori 
bens." They were so tamo and inquisitive that we had 
no difficulty in securing a few by the simple process of 
knocking them over with sticks. From the main branch 
of a large tree hung a big honey-comb, out of which the 
honey was draining upon the earth. Around it buzzed a 
busy concourse of bees, who appeared to us so formidable 
that we decided to leave them to the enjoyment of their 
sweet store, in case we should invite an attack. 

So far, our rambling had revealed nothing of any 
service to uo ; but just then, struck by the appearance of a 
plant which was growing profusely in a glade we were 
passing over, I made bold to taste one of the leaves. 
What the botanical name of the vegetable is, I do not 
know; but, under the designation of "Maori cabbage,** 
it is well known in New Zealand. It looks like a lettuce, 
running to seed ; but it tastes exactly like young turnip- 
tops, and is a splendid anti-scorbutic. What its dis- 
covery meant to us, I can hardly convey to any one who 
does not know what an insatiable craving for potatoes 
and green vegetables possesses seamen when they have 
for long been deprived of these humble but necessary 
articles of food. Under the circumstances, no **find*' 
could have given us greater pleasure — that is, in the 
food line — than this did. 

Taking it all round, however, the place as a foraging 
ground was not a success. We chased a goat of very 
large size, and beard voluminous as a Rabbi's, into a cave, 
which may have been the one the Halsteads took shelter 
in, for we saw no other. One of the Kanakas volunteered 
to go in after him with a line, and did so. The resul- 
tant encounter was the best bit of fun we had had for 
many a day. After a period of darksome scuffling within, 
the entangled pair emerged, fiercely wrestling, Billy 



304 TEE CRUISE OF TEE " CACEALOT,'' 

being to all appearance much the fresher of the two. 
Fair play seemed to demand that we should let them 
fight it out ; but, sad to say, the other Kanakas could not 
see things in that light, and Billy was soon despatched. 
Kather needless killing, too ; for no one, except at starva- 
tion-point, could have eaten the poor remains of leathery 
flesh that still decorated that weather-beaten frame. 

But this sort of thing was tiring and unprofitable. 
The interest of the place soon fizzled out, when it was 
found there was so little worth taking away ; so, as the 
day was getting on, it was decided to launch off and 
start fishing. In a few minutes we were afloat again, 
and anchored, in about four fathoms, in as favourable 
a spot for our sport as ever I saw. Fish swarmed 
about us of many sorts, but principally of the " kauwhai," 
a kind of mullet very plentiful about Auckland, and 
averaging five or six pounds. Much to my annoyance, 
we had not been able to get any bait, except a bit of raw 
salt-pork, which hardly any fish but the shark tribe will 
look at. Had I known or thought of it, a bit of goat 
would have been far more attractive. 

However, as there was no help for it, we baited up 
and started. " Nary nibble ermong 'em ! *' growled Sam, 
as we sat impatiently waiting for a bite. When we 
hauled up to see what was wrong, fish followed the hook 
up in hundreds, letting us know plainly as possible that 
they only wanted something tasty. It was outrageous, 
exasperating beyond measure ! At last Samuela grew so 
tired of it that he seized his harpoon, and hurled it into 
the. middle of a company of kauwhai that were calmly 
nosing around the bows. By the merest chance he 
managed to impale one of them upon the broad point. 
It was hardly in the boat before I had seized it, scaled 
it, and cut it into neat little blocks. All hands rebaited 



AT FUTVNA, BECRUITJNQ, 305 

with it, and Hang out again. Tho change was astound- 
ing. Up thoy camo, two at a timo, dozens and dozens of 
them — kauwhai, cavalle, yellow-tail, schnapper — lovely 
fish of delicious flavour and goodly size. Then one of 
us got a fish which made him yell, '* Shark ! shark ! " 
with all his might. He had a small line of American 
cotton, staunch as copper wire, but dreadfully cutting to 
the hands. When he took a turn round the loggerhead, 
the friction of the running line cut right into the white 
oak, but the wonderful cord and hook still held their 
own. At last the monster yielded, coming in at first 
inch by inch, then more rapidly, till raised in triumph 
above the gunwale — a yellow-tail six feet long. I have 
caught this splendid fish' {Elagatis hipinnulatus) many 
times before and since then, but never did I see such a 
grand specimen as this one — no, not by thirty or forty 
pounds. Then I got a giant cavalle. His broad, 
shield-like body blazed hither and thither as I struggled 
to ship him, but it was long ere he gave in to superior 
strength and excellence of line and hook. 

Meanwhile, the others had been steadily increasing 
our cargo, until, feeling that we had quite as much fish 
as would sufi&ce us, besides being really a good load, I 
suggested a move towards the ship. We were laying 
within about half a mile of the shore, where the ex- 
tremity of the level land reached the cliffs. Up one of 
the well-worn tracks a fine, fat goat was slowly creeping, 
stopping every now and then to browse upon the short 
herbage that clung to the crevices of the rock. Without 
saying a word, Polly the Kanaka sHpped over the side, 
and struck out with swift overhead strokes for the foot 
of the cliff. As soon as I saw what he was after, I 
shouted loudly for him to return, but he either could not 
or would not hear me. The fellow's seal-like ability as a 

1 



306 THE CRUISE OF THE " CACHALOTr 

swimmer was, of course, well known to me, but I must 
confess I trembled for his life in such a weltering whirl 
of rock-torn sea as boiled among the crags at the base 
of that precipice. He, however, evidently knew what 
he was going to do, and, though taking risks which 
would have certainly been fatal to an ordinary swimmer, 
was quite unafraid of the result. 

We all watched him breathlessly as he apparently 
headed straight for the biggest outlying rock — a square, 
black boulder about the size of an ordinary railway car. 
He came up to it on the summit of a foaming wave ; but 
just as I looked for him to be dashed to pieces against 
its adamantine sides, he threw his legs into the air and 
disappeared. A stealthy, satisfied smile glowed upon 
Samuela's rugged visage, and, as he caught my eye, he 
said jauntily, ** Polly savee too much. Lookee him come 
ontop one time ! *' I looked, and sure enough there was 
the daring villain crawling up among the kelp far out 
of reach of the hungry rollers. It was a marvellous 
exhibition of coolness and skill. 

Without waiting an instant, he began to stalk the 
goat, dodging amongst the bushes with feet that clung to 
the steep sides of the cliff as well as the animal's. Before 
he could reach her, she had winded him, and was off up 
the track. He followed, without further attempt to 
hide himself ; but, despite his vigour and ability, would, 
I fancy, have stood a microscopic chance of catching her 
had she not been heavy with kid. As it was, he had all 
his work cut out for him. When he did catch her, 
she made so fierce a struggle for life and liberty that, 
in the endeavour to hold her, he missed his insecure 
foothold, and the pair came tumbling over and over down 
the cliff in a miniature avalanche of stones and dust. 
At the bottom they both lay quiet for a time ; while I 



AT fUTVNA, RECRUITISO, 307 

anxiously waited, fearing the rash fool was seriously 
injured; but in a minute or two he was on his feet 
again. 

Lashing the goat to his body, and ignoring her 
struggles, ho crawled out as far among the rocks as he 
ooold ; then, at the approach of a big breaker, he dived to 
meet it, coming up outside its threatening top like a life- 
buoy. I pulled in, as near as I could venture, to pick 
him up, and in a few minutes had him safely on board 
again, but suffering fearfully. In his roll down the cliff 
he had been without his trousers, which would have been 
some protection to him. Consequently, his thighs were 
deeply cut and torn in many places, while the brine 
entering so many wounds, though a grand styptic, must 
have tortured him unspeakably. At any rate, though he 
was a regular stoic to bear pain, he fainted while I was 
"dressing him down" in the most vigorous language I 
could command for his foolhardy trick. Then we all 
realized what he must be going through, and felt that he 
was getting all the punishment he deserved, and more. 
The goat, poor thing ! seemed none the worse for her 
rough handling. 

The mate gave the signal to get back on board just 
as Polly revived, so there were no inconvenient questions 
asked, and we returned alongside in triumph, with such 
a cargo of fish as would have given us a good month's 
pay all round could we have landed them at Billingsgate. 
Although the mate had not succeeded as well as we, the 
catch of the two boats aggregated half a ton, not a fish 
among the lot less than five pounds weight, and one of a 
hundred and twenty — the yellow-tail aforesaid. As soon 
as we reached the ship, the boats were run up, sails filled, 
and away we lumbered again towards New Zealand. 

As the great mass of that solitary mountain faded 



308 THE CRUISE OF TEE " CACHALOT.'' 

away in the gathering shades of evening, it was' impos- 
sible to help remembering the sufferings of that afflicted 
family, confined to those trembling, sulphurous, ash- 
bestrewn rocks, amid gloom by day, and unnatural 
glare by night, for all that weary while. And while I 
admit that there is to some people a charm in being 
alone with nature, it is altogether another thing when 
your solitude becomes compulsory, your paradise a prison 
from which you cannot break away. There are many 
such nooks scattered about the ocean, where men have 
hidden themselves away from the busy world, and been 
forgotten by it ; but few of them, I fancy, offer such 
potentialities of terror as Sunday Island. 

We had hardly lost sight of the land, when Polly's 
capture gave birth to a kid. This event was the most 
interesting thing that had happened on board for a great 
while, and the funny little visitor would have run great 
risk of being completely spoiled had he lived. But, to 
our universal sorrow, the mother's milk failed — from 
want of green food, I suppose — and we were obliged to 
kill the poor little chap to save him from being starved 
to death. He made a savoury mess for some whose 
appetite for flesh-meat was stronger than any senti- 
mental considerations. 

To an ordinary trader, the distance between the 
Kermadecs and the Bay of Islands, New Zealand, roughly 
represents a couple of days' sail ; but to us, who were 
apparently incapable of hurry under any circumstances, 
it meant a good week's bludgeoning the protesting waves 
before the grim outliers of the Three Kings came into 
view. Even then, although the distance was a mere 
bagatelle, it was another two days before we arrived 
off that magnificent harbour where reposes the oldest 
township in New Zealand — Kussell, where rest the mortal 



AT FUTUNA, RECRUITING. 309 

lemaius of the first really Pakeha Maori, but wbicb, 
for some unaccountable reason, is still left undeveloped 
and neglected, visited only by tbe wandering wbalers 
(in ever-decreasing numbers) and an occasional trim, 
business-like, and gentlemanly man-o'-war, tbat, like a 
Guardsman strolling tbe West End in mufti, stalks tbe 
sea with never an item of her smart rig deviating by a 
shade from its proper set or sheer. 



310 TEE CRUISE OF THE " CACEALOjV 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

THE BAY OP ISLANDS AND NEW ZEALAND COAST. 

In a comparative new colony like New Zealand, where the 
marvellous growth of the young state can be traced 
within living memory, from the privations of the pioneer 
to the fully developed city with all the machinery of our 
latest luxurious civilization, it is exceedingly interesting 
to note how the principal towns have sprung up arbi- 
trarily, and without any heed to the intentions of the 
ruling powers. The old-fashioned township of Korora- 
rika, or Port Eussell, is a case very much in point, is 
we sailed in between the many islets from which the 
magnificent bay takes its name, for all appearances to 
the contrary, we might have been the first discoverers. 
Not a house, not a sail, not a boat, broke the loneliness 
and primeval look of the placid waters and the adjacent 
shores. Not until we drew near the anchorage, and saw 
upon opening up the little town the straight-standing 
masts of three whale-ships, did anything appear to dispel 
the intense air of solitude overhanging the whole. As 
we drew nearer, and rounded-to for mooring, I looked 
expectantly for some sign of enterprise on the part 
of the inhabitants — some tradesman's boat soliciting 
orders ; some of the population on the beach (there was 
no sign of a p^'er),. watching the visitor come to an 



BAT OF ISLANDS AND NEW ZEALAND COAST, 311 

anchor. Not a bit of it. The whole place seemed a 
maritime sleepy hollow, the dwellers in which had lost 
all interest in life, and had become far less energetic 
than the much-maligned Kanakas in their dreamy isles 
of summer. 

Yet this was once intended for the capital of New 
Zealand. When the large and splendidly-built city of 
Dunedin, Otago, was a barren bush, haunted only by the 
"morepork" and the apteryx, Russell was humming 
with vitality, her harbour busy with fleets of ships, 
principally whalers, who found it the most convenient 
calling-place in the southern temperate zone. Terrible 
scenes were enacted about its "blackguard beach,** 
orgies of wild debauchery and bloodshed indulged in by 
the half-savage and utterly lawless crews of the whale- 
ships. But it never attained to any real importance. 
As a port of call for whalers, it enjoyed a certain kind of 
prosperity ; but when the South Sea fishery dwindled, 
Russell shrank in immediate sympathy. It never had 
any vitality of its own, no manufactures or products, 
unless the wretched coal-mines adjacent, with their dirty 
output, which is scoffed at by the grimiest tug afloat, 
could be dignified by the name. 

Remembering, as I did, the beauty, the energy, and 
prosperity of the great New Zealand ports, some of them 
with not a tithe of the natural advantages of Russell, 
I felt amazed, almost indignant, at its dead-and-alive 
appearance. 

Our anchor was no sooner down than the captains 
of the James Arnold , Matilda Sayer, and Coral lowered 
and came on board, eager to hear or to tell such news as 
was going. As we had now grown to expect, all work 
was over immediately the sails were fast and decks 
cleared up, so that we were free to entertain our visitors. 



312 TEE CRUISE OF TEE " CACEALOT: 

And a high old time we had of it that afternoon ! What 
with songs, dances, and yarns, the hours flew by with 
lightning speed. Our Kanakas, too, were overjoyed to 
find compatriots among the visitors, and settled down to 
a steady stream of talk which lasted, without intermission, 
the whole night through. It was a wonderful exhibition 
of tongue-wagging, though what it was all about puzzled 
me greatly. 

Life on board those three ships, though described in 
glowing terms by the visitors, was evidently not to be 
mentioned for comfort in the same breath as ours. But 
we found that our late captain's fame as a " hard 
citizen " was well known to all ; so that it is only ordi- 
nary justice to suppose that such a life as he led us 
was exceptional for even a Yankee spouter. Our friends 
gave us a blood-curdling account of the Solander whaling 
ground, which we were about to visit, the James Arnold 
and Coral having spent a season there that cruise. I 
did not, however, pay much attention to their yarns, feel- 
ing sure that, even if they were fact, it would not help to 
brood over coming hardships, and inclined to give liberal 
discount to most of their statements. The incessant 
chatter got wearisome at last, and I, for one, was not 
sorry when, at two in the morning, our visitors departed 
to their several ships, and left us to get what sleep still 
remained left to us. 

A pleasant expedition was planned for the next day. 
Our visit being principally for wooding and watering, 
both of which it was necessary for us to do ourselves. 
Captain Count showed his usual promptitude in com- 
mencing at once. Permission having been obtained and, 
I suppose, paid for, we set out with two boats and a 
plentiful supply of axes for a well-wooded promontory to 
prepare a store of wood. Wood chopping is not usually 



BAY OF ISLANDS AND NEW ZEALAND COAST. 313 

looked upon as a sailor's pastime ; but we had had con- 
siderable experience during the voyage, as a result of 
which most of us could swing an axe in fine style. But 
the Kanakas beat us all hollow. Delighted to get ashore 
again, pleased with the fine axes as children with new 
toys, they laid about them in grand style, the young trees 
falling right and left in scores. Anybody would have 
judged that we were working piece-work, at so much a 
cord, the pile grew so fast. There was such a quantity 
collected that, instead of lightering it off in the boats, 
which is very rough and dirty usage for them, I con- 
structed a sort of raft with four large spars arranged 
in the form of an oblong, placing an immense quantity 
of the smaller stuff in between. Upright sticks were 
rudely lashed here and there, to keep the pile from 
bobbing out underneath, and thus loaded we proceeded 
slowly to the ship with sufficient wood for our wants 
brought in one journey. It was immediately hoisted 
on board, sawn into convenient lengths, and stowed 
away, the whole operation being completed, of getting 
between eight and ten tons of firewood cut, ferried, and 
stowed, in less than eight hours. 

Next day was devoted to watering ; but as I have else- 
where described that necessary if prosaic occupation, I 
will not repeat the story. Sufficient to say that the job 
was successfully " did " in the course of the day. 

All the work being accomplished for which we had 
come, it only remained to give the crew *' hberty.'* So 
the port watch, in their best (?) rig, were mustered aft ; 
each man received ten shillings, and away they went in 
glee for the first genuine day's liberty since leaving 
Honolulu. For although they had been much ashore in 
Van Yau, that was not looked upon in the same light as 
a day's freedom in a town where liquor might be procured. 



314 THE CRUISE OF TEE " CACHALOT:' 

and the questionable privilege of getting drunk taken 
advantage of. Envious eyes watched their progress 
from the other ships, but, much to my secret satisfac- 
tion, none of their crews were allowed ashore at the same 
time. There were quite sufficient possibilities of a row 
among our own crowd, without further complications 
such as would almost certainly have occurred had the 
strangers been let loose at the same time. Unfortunately, 
to the ordinary sailor-man, the place presented no other 
forms of amusement besides drinking, and I was grieved 
to see almost the whole crowd, including the Kanakas, 
emerge from the grog-shop plentifully supplied with 
bottles, and, seating themselves on the beach, commence 
their carouse. The natives evinced the greatest eager- 
ness to get drunk, swallowing down the horrible '* square 
gin *' as if it were water. They passed with the utmost 
rapidity through all the stages of drunkenness. Before 
they had been ashore an hour, most of them were lying 
like logs, in the full blaze of the sun, on the beach. 
Seeing this, the captain suggested the advisability of 
bringing them on board at once, as they were only 
exposed to robbery by the few prowling Maories that 
loafed about the beach — a curious contrast to the stately 
fellows met with in other parts of New Zealand. 

So we set to work, and brought them on board again, 
handing them over to their compatriots by way of warn- 
ing against similar excesses, although, it must be con- 
fessed, that they were hardly to blame, with the example 
of their more civilized shipmates before their eyes. Sam 
was energetic in his condemnation of both the Kanakas 
for getting drunk, and the captain for giving them any 
money wherewith to do so. The remainder of the watch 
fortunately concluded their carouse without any serious 
disorder. A few bruises bestowed upon one another. 



BAY OF ISLANDS AND NEW ZEALAND COAST. 315 

more in clumsy horseplay than real fighting, summed 
up the casualties among them. By ten o'clock that 
evening we had them all safely on board again, ready 
for sore heads and repentance in the morning. 

During the day I had evolved a scheme, which I had 
great hopes of carrying out when our watch should be 
let loose on the morrow. When morning came, and the 
liberty men received their money, I called them together 
and unfolded my plan. Briefly, I proposed a sort of 
picnic at a beautiful spot discovered during our wooding 
expedition. I was surprised and very pleased at the 
eager way in which all, with the sole exceptions of Tui 
and his fellow-harpooner, a Portuguese, fell in with my 
suggestions. Without any solicitation on my part, my 
Kanakas brought me their money, begging me to expend 
it for them, as they did not know how, and did not want 
to buy gin. 

Under such favourable auspices as these, we landed 
shortly after eight a.m., making a bee-line for the only 
provision shop the place boasted. Here we laid in a 
stock of such savouries as we had long been strangers to, 
both eatables and drinkables, although I vetoed fire-water 
altogether. Beer in bottle was substituted, at my sugges- 
tion, as being, if we must have drinks of that nature, 
much the least harmful to men in a hot country, besides, 
in the quantity that we were able to take, non-intoxicant 
We also took tea, sugar, milk, and a kettle. Thus fur- 
nished, we struck for the country, merry as a group of 
schoolboys, making the quiet air ring again with song, 
shout, and laughter — all of which may seem puerile and 
trivial in the extreme ; but having seen liberty men ashore 
in nearly every big port in the world, watched the help- 
less, dazed look with which they wander about, swinging 
hands, bent shoulders, and purposeless rolling gait, I 



316 THE CRUISE OF TEE "CACHALOT:' 

have often fervently wished that some one would take 
a party of them for a ramble with a definite purpose, 
helping them to a little enjoyment, instead of them falling, 
from sheer lack of knowing what else to do, into some 
dirty, darksome gin-mill, to be besotted, befooled, and 
debased. 

I do earnestly wish that some of the good folk in 
London and Liverpool, who are wringing their hands for 
want of something to do among their fellow-men, would 
pay a visit to sailor-town for the purpose of getting up 
a personally-conducted party of sailors to see the sight? 
worth seeing. It is a cheap form of pleasure, even if they 
paid all expenses, though that would not be likely. They 
would have an uphill job at first, for the sailor has been 
so long accustomed to being preyed upon by the class 
he knows, and neglected by everybody else except the 
few good people who want to preach to him, that he 
would probably, in a sheepish, shame-faced sort of way, 
refuse to have any ** truck " with you, as he calls it. If 
the ** sailors' home " people were worth their salt, they 
would organize expeditions by carriage to such beautiful 
places as — in London, for instance — Hampton Court, 
Zoological Gardens, Crystal Palace, Epping Forest, and 
the like, with competent guides and good catering 
arrangements. But no; the sailor is allowed to step 
outside the door of the " home " into the grimy, dismal 
streets with nothing open to him but the dance-house 
and brothel on one side, and the mission hall or reading- 
room on the other. God forbid that I should even 
appear to sneer at missions to seamen ; nothing is farther 
from my intention ; but I do feel that sailors need a 
little healthy human interest to be taken in providing 
some pleasure for them, and that there are unorthodox 
ways of "missioning '* which are well worth a trial. 



BAT OF ISLANDS AND NEW ZEALAND COAST. 317 

I onco took a party (while I was an A.B.) from Wells- 
fitreet Home to the South Kensington Museum. There 
were six of them — a Frenchman, a Dane, a Russian Finn, 
two Englishmen, and an Irishman. Though continually 
sailing from London for years, this was the first occasion 
they had ever been west of Aldgate. The only mistake I 
made was in going too deep at one step. The journey from 
Shadwell to South Kensington, under the guidance of 
one familiar, through the hardest personal experiences, 
with every corner of the vast network, was quite enough 
for one day. So that by the time we entered the Museum 
they were surfeited temporarily with sight-seeing, and 
not able to take in the wonders of the mighty place. 
Seeing this, I did not persist, but, after some rest and 
refreshment, led them across the road among the naval 
models. Ah ! it was a rare treat to see them there. For 
if there is one thing more than another which interests a 
sailor, it is a well-made model of a ship. Sailors are 
model makers almost by nature, turning out with the 
most meagre outfit of tools some wonderfully-finished 
replicas of the vessels in which they have sailed. And 
the collection of naval models at South Kensington is, 
I suppose, unsurpassed in the world for the number and 
finish of the miniature vessels there shown. 

Our day was a great success, never to be forgotten 
by those poor fellows, whose only recreation previously 
had been to stroll listlessly up and down the gloomy, 
stone-flagged hall of the great barracks until sheer 
weariness drove them out into the turbid current of the 
"Highway," there to seek speedily some of the dirty 
haunts where the *' runner " and the prostitute awaited 
them. 

But I have wandered far from the Bay of Islands 
while thus chattering of the difficulties that beset the 



318 TEE CRUISE OF TEE " CACHALOT.'' $ 

path of rational enjoyment for the sailor ashore. Return- 
ing to that happy day, I remember vividly how, just 
after we got clear of the town, we were turning down a 
lane between hedgerows wonderfully like one of our own 
country roads, when something — I could not tell what — 
gripped my heart and sent a lump into my throat. 
Tears sprang unbidden to my eyes, and I trembled from 
head to foot with emotion. Whatever could it be ? 
Bewildered for the moment, I looked around, and saw a 
hedge laden with white hawthorn blossom, the sweet 
English ** may.'* Every Londoner knows how strongly 
that beautiful scent appeals to him, even when wafted 
from draggled branches borne slumwards by tramping 
urchins who have been far afield despoiling the trees of 
their lovely blossoms, careless of the damage they have 
been doing. But to me, who had not seen a bit for years, 
the flood of feeling, undammed by that odorous breath, 
was overwhelming. I could hardly tear myself away 
from the spot, and, when at last I did, found myself 
continually turning to try and catch another whiff of one 
of the most beautiful scents in the world. 

Presently we came to a cottage flooded from ground 
to roof-ridge with blossoms of scarlet geranium. There 
must have been thousands of them, all borne by one 
huge stem which was rooted by the door of the house. 
A little in front of it grew a fuchsia, twelve or fourteen 
feet high, with wide-spreading branches, likewise loaded 
with handsome blooms ; while the ground beneath was 
carpeted with the flowers shaken from their places by 
the rude wind. 

So, through scenes of loveliness that appealed even 
to the dusky Kanakas, we trudged gaily along, arriving 
pretty well fagged at our destination — a great glade of 
tenderest green, surrounded by magnificent trees on three 



BAY OF ISLANDS AND NEW ZEALAND COAST. 319 

Bides ; the fourth opening on to a dazzling white beach 
eloping gently down to the sea. Looking seaward, 
amidst the dancing, sparkling wavelets, rose numerous 
tree-clothed islets, making a perfectly beautiful seascape. 
On either side of the stretch of beach fantastic masses 
of rock lay about, as if scattered by some tremendous 
explosion. Where the sea reached them, they were 
covered with untold myriads of oysters, ready to be eaten 
and of delicious flavour. 

What need to say more? With oyster-feeding, 
fishing, bathing, tree-climbing, tea-making, song-singing, 
the hours fled with pitiless haste, so that, before we had 
half emptied the brimming cup of joys proffered us, the 
slanting rays of the setting sun warned us to return 
lest we should get "bushed " in the dark. We came on 
board rejoicing, laden with spoils of flowers and fish, 
with two-thirds of our money still in our pockets, and 
full of happy memories of one of the most delightful 
days in our whole lives. 

A long night's sound sleep was rudely broken into 
in the morning by the cry of " Man the windlass." 
Having got all we wanted, we were bound away to finish, 
if luck were with us, the lading of our good ship from 
the teeming waters of the Solander grounds. I know 
the skipper's hopes were high, for he never tired of 
telling how, when in command of a new ship, he once 
fished the whole of his cargo— six thousand barrels 
of sperm oil — from the neighbourhood to which we 
were now bound. He always admitted, though, that 
the weather he experienced was unprecedented. Still, 
nothing could shake his belief in the wonderful numbers 
of sperm whales to be found on the south coasts of 
New Zealand, which faith was well warranted, since he 
had there won from the waves, not only the value of 



320 THE CBUISE OF TEE " CACEALOT.'* 

his new ship, but a handsome profit in addition, all in 
one season. 

Hearing this kind of thing every day made me feel 
quite hungry to reach the battle-field ; but, for reasons 
which doubtless were excellent, although I cannot pre- 
tend to explain them, we started north about, which not 
only added nearly one hundred miles to the distance we 
had to go, but involved us in a gale which effectually 
stopped our progress for a week. It was our first taste 
of the gentle zephyrs which waft their sweetness over 
New Zealand, after sweeping over the vast, bleak, 
iceberg-studded expanse of the Antarctic Ocean. Our 
poor Kanakas were terribly frightened, for the weather 
of their experience, except on the rare occasions when 
they are visited by the devastating hurricane, is always 
fine, steady, and warm. For the first time in their lives 
they saw hail, and their wonder was too great for words. 
But the eold was very trying, not only to them, but to 
us, who had been so long in the tropics that our blood 
was almost turned to water. The change was nearly as 
abrupt as that so often experienced by our seamen, who 
at the rate of sixteen knots an hour plunge from a 
temperature of eighty degrees to one of thirty degrees in 
about three days. 

We, with the ready adaptability of seamen, soon got 
accustomed to the bleak, bitter weather, but the Kanakas 
wilted like hothouse plants under its influence. They 
were well fed and well clothed, yet they seemed to 
shrivel up, looking thinner every day, several of them 
getting deep coughs strongly suggestive of a cemetery. 
It was no easy task to get them to work, or even move, 
never a one of them lumbering aloft but I expected 
him to come down by the run. This was by no 
means cheering, when it was remembered what kind of a 



BAT OF JSLANDS AND N£W ZEALAND COAST. 321 

isampaign lay before us. Captain Count seemed to be 
quite easy in bis mind, bow ever, and as wo bad implicit 
confidence in bis wisdom and judgment, we were some- 
wbat reassured. 

Tbe gale at last blew itself out, tbe wind veering to 
the northward again, with beautiful, spring-like weather, 
just cool enough to be pleasant, and, withal, favourable 
for getting to our destination. We soon made the land 
again about New Plymouth, jogging along near enough 
to the coast to admire the splendid rugged scenery of 
the Britain of the south. All hands were kept busily 
employed preparing for stormy weather — reeving new 
running-gear, bending the strongest suit of sails, and 
looking well to all the whaling gear. 

In this active exercise of real sailor-work, the time, 
though long for an ordinary passage, passed quickly 
and pleasantly away, so that when we hauled round 
the massive promontory guarding the western entrance 
to Foveaux Straits, we were almost surprised to find 
ourselves there so soon. 

This, then, was the famous and dreaded Solander 
whaling ground. Almost in the centre of the wide 
stretch of sea between Preservation Inlet, on the Middle 
Island, and the western end of the South, or Stewart's 
Island, rose a majestic mass of wave-beaten rock some 
two thousand feet high, like a grim sentinel guarding the 
Straits. The extent of the fishing grounds was not more 
than a hundred and fifty square miles, and it was rarely 
that the vessels cruised over the whole of it. The most 
likely area for finding whales was said to be well within 
eight of the Solander Eock itself, but keeping on the 
western side of it. 

It was a lovely day when we first entered upon our 
cruising ground, a gentle north-east wind blowing, the 

1 



322 TUE CRUISE OF TEE " CACHALOT," 

sky a deep, cloudless blue, so that the rugged outline 
of Stewart's Island was distinctly seen at its extreme 
distance from us. To the eastward the Straits narrowed 
rapidly, the passage at the other end being scarcely five 
miles wide between the well-known harbour of the Bluff, 
the port of Invercargill, and a long rocky island which 
almost blocked the strait. This passage, though cutting 
off a big comer, not only shortening the distance from 
the westward considerably, but oftentimes saving out- 
ward bounders a great deal of heavy weather off the 
Snares to the south of Stewart's Island, is rarely used 
by sailing-ships, except coasters ; but steamers regularly 
avail themselves of it, being independent of its con- 
flicting currents and baffling winds. 



( 323 ) 



CHAPTER XXV. 

ON THE SOLANOEB OB0UNT«. 

Our opening day was an auspicious one. We had not 
been within the cruising radius more than four hours 
before the long-silent cry of ** Blo-o-o-w ! " resounded 
from the mainmast head. It was a lone whale, ap* 
parently of large size, though spouting almost as feebly 
as a calf. But that, I was told by the skipper, was 
nothing to go by down here. He believed right firmly 
that there were no small whales to be found in these 
waters at alL He averred that in all his experience 
he had never seen a cow-cachalot anywhere around 
Stewart's Island, although, as usual, he did no theorizing 
as to the reason why. 

Eagerly we took to the boats and made for our first 
fish, getting alongside of him in less than half an hour 
from our first glimpse of his bushy breath. As the 
irons sank into his blubber, he raised himself a little, 
and exposed a back like a big ship bottom up. Verily, 
the skipper's words were justified, for we had seen 
nothing bigger of the whale-kind that voyage. His 
manner puzzled us not a little. He had not a kick 
in him. Complacently, as though only anxious to 
oblige, he laid quietly while we cleared for action, nor 
did be show any 8is;ns of resentment or pain whDe he 



324 THE CRUISE OF TEE " CACHALOT," 

was being lanced with all the vigour we possessed. 
He just took all our assaults with perfect quietude 
and exemplary patience, so that we could hardly help 
regarding him with great suspicion, suspecting some deep 
scheme of deviltry hidden by this abnormally sheep -like 
demeanour. But nothing happened. In the same 
peaceful way he died, without the slightest struggle 
sufficient to raise even an eddy on the almost smooth sea. 
Leaving the mate by the carcass, we returned on 
board, the skipper hailing us immediately on our arrival 
to know what was the matter with him. We, of course, 
did not know, neither did the question trouble us. All 
we were concerned about was the magnanimous way in 
which he, so to speak, made us a present of himself, 
giving us no more trouble to secure his treasure than as 
if he had been a lifeless thing. We soon had him 
alongside, finding, upon ranging him by the ship, that 
he was over seventy feet long, with a breadth of bulk 
quite in proportion to such a vast length. 

Cutting in commenced at once, for fine weather 
there was by no means to be wasted, being of rare 
occurrence and liable at the shortest notice to be 
succeeded by a howling gale. Our latest acquisition, 
however, was of such gigantic proportions that the 
decapitation alone bade fair to take us all night. A 
nasty cross swell began to get up, too — a combination of 
north-westerly and south-westerly which, meeting at an 
angle where the Straits began, raised a curious " jobble," 
making the vessel behave in a drunken, uncertain 
manner. Sailors do not mind a ship rolling or pitching, 
any more than a rider minds the motion of his horse ; but 
when she does both at once, with no approach to regularity 
in her movements, it makes them feel angry with her. 
What, then, must our feelings have been under such 



ON THE SOLANDER QROUNDS. 325 

trying conditions, with that mountain of matter alongside 
to which 80 much sheer hard labour had to be done, 
while the sky was getting greasy and the wind beginning 
to whine in that doleful key which is the certain prelude 
to a gale ? 

Everybody worked like Chinamen on a contract, as 
if there was no such feeling as fatigue. Little was said, 
but we all realized that unless this job was got over 
before what was brooding burst upon us, we should 
certainly lose some portion of our hard-won whale. Still, 
our utmost possible was all we could do ; and when at 
daylight the head was hauled alongside for cutting up, 
the imminent possibility of losing it, though grievous to 
think of, worried nobody, for all had done their best. 
The gale had commenced in business-like fashion, but 
the sea was horrible. It was almost impossible to keep 
one's footing on the stage. At times the whole mass of 
the head would be sucked down by the lee roll of the 
ship, and go right under her keel, the fluke-chain which 
held it grinding and straining as if it would tear the 
bows out of her. Then when she rolled back again 
the head would rebound to the surface right away from 
the ship, where we could not reach it to cut. Once or 
twice it bounced up beneath our feet, striking the stage 
and lifting it with its living load several inches, letting 
it fall again with a jerk that made us all cling for dear 
life to our precarious perch. 

In spite of these capers, we managed to get the 
junk off the head. It was a tremendous lift for us; 
I hardly think we had ever raised such a weight before. 
The skipper himself estimated it at fifteen tons, which 
was no small load for the tackles in fine weather, but 
with the ship tumbling about in her present fashion, it 
threatened to rip the mainmast out by the roots — not, 



326 TUE CRUISE OF THE " CACHALOT," 

of course, the dead-weight strain ; but when it was nearly 
aboard, her sudden lee wallow sometimes floated the 
whole mass, which the next instant, on the return roll, 
would be torn out of water, with all the force of the ship 
suddenly rolling the other way. Every splinter, every 
rope-yarn of her groaned again under this savage treat- 
ment; but so splendid was her construction that she 
never made a drop of water more than just sufficient to 
sweeten the limbers. 

It was with great and genuine satisfaction that we 
saw it at last safely lowered on deck and secured. 
But when we turned our attention to the case, which, 
still attached to the skull, battered alongside, any 
<}hance of saving it was at once seen to be hopeless. 
Indeed, as the old man said, it was time for us to "up 
fltick" and run for shelter. We had been too fully 
occupied to notice the gradual increase of the wind ; but 
when we did, there was no gainsaying the fact that it 
was blowing a very stiff breeze {Anglice, a violent gale). 
Fortunately for us, it was from the westward, fair for 
iihe harbour of Port William, on the Stewart's Island 
side of the Straits, so that we were free from the appre- 
hension of being blown out to sea or on a jagged lee 
6hore. 

While we were thus thinking during a brief pause to 
take breath, the old packet herself solved our last 
difficulty in emphatic fashion. She gave a tremendous 
lee lurch, which would inevitably have destroyed the 
cutting stage if we had not hoisted it, driving right over 
the head, which actually rose to the surface to wind- 
ward, having passed under her bottom. The weather 
roll immediately following was swift and sudden. From 
the nature of things, it was evident that something must 
give way this time. It did. For the first and only 



ON THE SOLANDER ROUNDS. 327 

time in my experience, the fluke-chain was actually torn 
through the piece to which it was fast — two feet of solid 
gristle ripped asunder. Away went the head with its 
£150 to £200 worth of pure spermaceti, disappearing 
from view almost immediately. 

It had III sooner gone than more sail was set, the 
yards were squared, and the vessel kept away up the 
Straits for shelter. It was a big improvement, for she 
certainly had begun to make dirty weather of it, and no 
wonder. Now, however, running almost dead before the 
gale, getting into smoother water at every fathom, she 
was steady as a rock, allowing us to pursue our greasy 
avocation in comparative comfort. The gale was still 
increasing, although now blowing with great fury ; but, 
to our satisfaction, it was dry and not too cold. Running 
before it, too, lessened our appreciation of its force; 
besides which, we were exceedingly busy clearing away 
the enormous mass of the junk, which, draining con- 
tinually, kept the decks running with oil. 

We started to run up the Straits at about ten a.m. 
At two p.m. wo suddenly looked up from our toil, our 
attention called by a sudden lull in the wind. We had 
rounded Saddle Point, a prominent headland, which 
shut off from us temporarily the violence of the gale. 
Two hours later we found ourselves hauling up into the 
pretty little harbour of Port William, where, without 
taking more than a couple of hands ofif the work, the 
vessel was rounded-to and anchored with quite as little 
fuss as bringing a boat alongside a ship. It was the 
perfection of seamanship. 

Once inside the bay, a vessel was sheltered from all 
winds, the land being high and the entrance intricate. 
The water was smooth as a mill-pond, though the learleu 
masses of cloud flying overhead and tne muf ted roar of 



328 THE CRUISE OF THE ''CACHALOTS 

the gale told eloquently of the unpleasant state of affairs 
prevailing outside. Two whale-ships lay here — the 
Tamerlane, of New Bedford, and the Chance, of Bluff 
Harbour. I am bound to confess that there was a great 
difference in appearance between the Yankee and the 
colonial — very much in favour of the former. She was 
neat, smart, and seaworthy, looking as if just launched ; 
but the Chance looked like some poor old relic of a 
bygone day, whose owners, unable to sell her, and too 
poor to keep her in repair, were just letting her go while 
keeping up the insurance, praying fervently each day 
that she might come to grief, and bring them a little 
profit at last. 

But although it is much safer to trust appearances 
in ships than in men, any one who summed up the- 
Chance from her generally outworn and poverty-stricken 
looks would have been, as I was, **way off." Old sha 
was, with an indefinite antiquity, carelessly rigged, and 
vilely unkempt as to her gear, while outside she did not 
seem to have had a coat of paint for a generation. She 
looked what she really was — the sole survivor of the 
once great whaling industry of New Zealand. For 
although struggling bay whaling stations did exist in a 
few sheltered places far away from the general run of 
traffic, the trade itself might truthfully be said to be 
practically extinct. The old Chance alone, like some 
shadow of the past, haunted Foveaux Straits, and 
made a better income for her fortunate owners than 
any of the showy, swift coasting steamers that rushed 
contemptuously past her on their eager way. 

In many of the preceding pages I have, though 
possessing all an Englishman's pride in the prowess 
of mine own people, been compelled to bear witness io 
the wonderful smartness and courage shown by the 



ON THE SOLANDEB GROUNDS, 829 

American whalemen, to whom their perilous calling 
seems to have become a second nature. And on other 
occasions I have lamented that our own whalers, either 
at home or in the colonies, never seemed to take so 
kindly to the sperm whale fishery as the hardy ** down 
Easters," who first taught them the business ; carried it 
on with increasing success, in spite of their competition 
and the depredations of the Alabama; flourished long 
after the English fishery was dead; and even now 
muster a fleet of ships engaged in the same bold and 
hazardous calling. Therefore, it is the more pleasant 
to me to be able to chronicle some of the doings of 
Captain Gilroy, familiarly known as *' Paddy," the 
master of the Chance, who was unsurpassed as a 
whale-fisher or a seaman by any Yankee that ever sailed 
from Martha's Vineyard. 

He was a queer little figure of a man — short, tubby, 
with scanty red hair, and a brogue thick as pea-soup. 
Eccentric in most things, he was especially so in his 
dress, which he seemed to select on the principle of 
finding the most unfitting things to wear. Humour 
credited him with a numerous half-breed progeny — 
certainly he was greatly mixed up with the Maories, 
half his crew being made up of his dusky friends and 
relations by marriage. Overflowing with kindliness and 
good temper, his ship was a veritable ark of refuge for 
any unfortunate who needed help, which accounted for 
the numerous deserters from Yankee whalers who were 
to be found among his crew. Such whaling skippers as 
our late commander hated him with ferocious intensity ; 
and but for his Maori and half-breed bodyguard, I have 
little doubt he would have long before been killed. 
Living as he had for many years on that storm-beaten 
coast, he had become, like his Maories, familiar with 



330 THE CRUISE OF TEE " CACEALOTr 

every rock and tree in fog or clear, by night or day ; 
he knew them, one might almost say, as the seal knows 
them, and feared them as little. His men adored him. 
They believed him capable of anything in the way of 
whaling, and would as soon have thought of questioning 
the reality of daylight as the wisdom of his decisions. 

I went on board the evening of our arrival, hearing 
some rumours of the doings of the old Chance and 
her crew, also with the idea that perhaps I might find 
some countrymen among his very mixed crowd. The 
first man I spoke to was Whitechapel to the backbone, 
plainly to be spotted as such as if it had been tattooed 
on his forehead. Making myself at home with him, 
I desired to know what brought him so far from the 
"big smoke,'* and on board a whaler of all places in the 
world. He told me he had been a Pickford's van-driver, 
but had emigrated to New Zealand, finding that he 
did not at all like himself in the new country. Trying to 
pick and choose instead of manfully choosing a pick and 
shovel for a beginning, he got hard up. During one of 
Captain Gilroy's visits to the Bluff, he came across my 
ex-drayman, looking hungry and woe-begone. Invited 
on board to have a feed, he begged to be allowed to 
remain; nor, although his assistance was not needed, was 
he refused. "An nar," he said, his face glowing with 
conscious pride, " y'ort ter see me in a bloomin* bowt. 
I ain't a-gowin' ter say as I kin fling wun o' them 'ere 
bloomin* 'arpoones like ar bowt-steerers kin ; but I kin 
do my bit o' grawft wiv enny on 'em — don'tchu make no 
bloomin' herror." The glorious incongruity of the thing 
tickled me immensely ; but I laughed more heartily 
still when on going below I was hailed as " Wot cher, 
chummy ; *ow yer hoppin' up ? " by another barbarian 
from the wilds of Spitalfields, who, from the secure 



ON TUB SOLANDER OBOUNDS, 331 

Bhelter of bis cats'-meat round in 'Oxton, bad got 
adrift, and, after being severely buflfeted by tempestuous 
ill-fortuue, bad finally found bimsclf in tbe comfortable 
old Chance, a baven of rest in tbe midst of storms. 
Tbere were sixteen wbite men on board tbe Chance, 
including tbe skipper, drawn as usual from various 
European and American sources, tbe rest of her 
large crew of over forty all told being made up of 
Maories and balf-breeds. One common interest united 
tbem, making them tbe jolliest crowd I ever saw — 
tbeir devotion to tbeir commander. Tbere was here to 
be found no jealousy of tbe Maories being officers and 
harpooners, no black looks or discontented murmuring ; 
all hands seemed particularly well satisfied with tbeir 
lot in all its bearings; so that, although the old tub 
was malodorous enough to turn even a pretty strong 
stomach, it was a pleasure to visit her cheerful crowd 
for the sake of tbeir enhvening society. 

Of course, under our present circumstances, with the 
dihris of our late enormous catch fiUing every available 
space and loudly demanding attention, we had little time 
to spare for ship visiting. Some boat or other from the 
two ships was continually alongside of us, though, for 
until the gale abated they could not get out to the 
grounds again, and time bung heavy on their hands. 
The Tamerlane's captain avoided Paddy as if he were 
a leper — hated tbe sight of him, in fact, as did most 
of bis confreres; but our genial skipper, whose crew 
were every whit as well treated and contented as the 
Chance's, and who therefore needed not to dread losing 
them, met the little philanthropist on tbe most friendly 
terms. 

Tbe first fine weather, which came four days 
after our arrival, both our harbour mates cleared out. 



332 TEE CRUISE OF TEE " CACEALOT* 

Characteristically, the Chance was away first, before day- 
light had quite asserted itself, and while the bases of 
the cliffs and tops of the rocks were as yet hidden in 
dense wreaths of white haze. Paddy lolled on the taff- 
rail near the wheel, which was held by an immense 
half-breed, who leant back and carried on a desultory, 
familiar conversation with his skipper ; the rest of the 
crew were scattered about the decks, apparently doing 
what they liked in any manner they chose. The 
anchor was being catted, sails going up, and yards 
being trimmed ; but, to observers like us, no guiding 
spirit was noticeable. It seemed to work all right, and 
the old ark herself looked as if she was as intelligent 
as any of them; but the sight was not an agreeable 
one to men accustomed to discipline. The contrast 
when the Tamerlane came along an hour or so after 
was emphatic. Every man at his post; every order 
carried out with the precision of clockwork ; the captain 
pacing the quarter-deck as if she were a line-of-battle 
ship — here the airs put on were almost ludicrous in 
the other direction. Although she was only "a good 
jump*' long, as we say, whenever an order was given, 
it was thundered out as if the men were a mile away, 
each officer appearing to vie with the others as to who 
could bellow the loudest. That was carrying things to 
the opposite extreme, and almost equally objectionable 
to merchant seamen. 

We were thus left alone to finish our trying-out, 
except for such company as was afforded by the only 
resident's little schooner, in which he went oyster- 
dredging. It was exceedingly comfortable in the small 
harbour, and the fishing something to remember all 
one's life. That part of New Zealand is famous for a 
fish something like a bream, but with a longer snout. 



ON THE 80LANDER GROUNDS, 333 

and striped longitudinally with black and yellow. I 
am ignorant of any polysyllabic prefix for it, only 
knowing it by its trivial and local appellation of the 
" trumpeter/' from the peculiar sound it makes when 
out of water. But no other fish out of the innumer- 
able varieties which I have sampled in all parts of the 
world could compare with the trumpeter for flavour 
and delicacy. These qualities are well known to the 
inhabitants of the large towns, who willingly pay high 
prices for the scanty supply of these delicious fish which 
they are able to obtain. Of other succulent fish there 
was a great variety, from the majestic "grouper," 
running up to over a hundredweight, down to the 
familiar flounder. Very little fishing could be done 
at night. Just as day was dawning was the ideal 
time for this enticing sport. As soon as the first few 
streaks of delicate light enlivened the dull horizon, a 
stray nibble or two gladdened the patient fishermen ; 
then as the light strengthened the fun became general, 
and in about an hour enough fish would be caught to 
provide all hands with for the day. 

One morning, when a stark calm left the surface of 
the bay as smooth as a mirror, I was watching a few 
stealthily-gliding barracouta sneaking about over the 
plainly visible bottom, though at a depth of seven or 
eight fathoms. Ordinarily, these fish must be taken 
with a live bait ; but, remembering my experience with 
the dolphin, I determined to try a carefully-arranged 
strip of fish from one recently caught. In precisely 
the same way as the dolphin, these long, snaky rascals 
carefully tested the bait, lying still for sometimes as 
long as two minutes with the bait in their mouths, 
ready to drop it out on the first intimation that it was 
not a detached morsel. After these periods of waiting 



334 TEE CRUISE OF TEE *' CACHALOT." 

the artful creature would turn to go, and a sudden 
jerk of the line then reminded him that he was no 
longer a free agent, hut mounting at headlong speed 
to a strange bourne whence he never returned to tell 
the tale. My catch that lovely morning scaled over a 
hundredweight in less than an hour, none of the fish 
being less than ten pounds in weight. 

The Maories have quite an original way of catching 
barracouta. They prepare a piece of " rimu " (red pine) 
about three inches long, by an inch broad, and a quarter 
of an inch thick. Through one end of this they drive 
an inch nail bent upwards, and filed to a sharp point. 
The other end is fastened to about a fathom of stout 
fishing-line, which is in turn secured to the end of a 
five-foot pole. Seated in a boat with sail set, they slip 
along until a school of barracouta is happened upon. 
Then the peak of the sail is dropped, so as to deaden 
the boat's way, while the fishermen ply their poles with 
a sidelong sweep that threshes the bit of shining red 
through the water, making it irresistibly attractive to a 
struggHng horde of ravenous fish. One by one, as 
swiftly as the rod can be wielded, the lithe forms drop 
off the barbless hook into the boat, till the vigorous arm 
can no longer respond to the will of the fisherman, or 
the vessel will hold no more. 

Such were the goodly proportions of this first Solander 
whale of ours that, in spite of the serious loss of the 
case, we made thirteen and a half tuns of oil. When 
the fifteen huge casks containing it were stowed in 
their final positions, they made an imposing show, 
inspiring all of us with visions of soon being homeward 
bound. For the present we were, perforce, idle ; for 
the wind had set in to blow steadily and strongly right 
up the Straits, preventing any attempts to get out while 



Oy THE SOLANDER 0R0UND3. 335 

it lasted. The time did not hang heavy on our hands, 
for the surrounding country offered many attractions, 
which we were allowed to take full advantage of. Spear- 
ing eels and flounders at night by means of a cresset 
hung out over the boat's bow, as she was slowly sculled 
up the long, shallow creeks, was a favourite form of 
amusement. Mr. Cross, the resident, kindly allowed us 
to raid his garden, where the ripe fruit was rotting by 
the bushel for want of consumers. We needed no 
pressing ; for fruit, since we left Vau Vau, of any kind 
had not come in our way ; besides, these were " homey " 
— currants, gooseberries, strawberries — delightful to see, 
smell, and taste. So it came to pass that we had a high 
old time, unmarred by a single regrettable incident, 
until, after an enforced detention of twenty days, we 
were able to get to sea again. 

Halfway down the Straits we sighted the Chance, all 
hands ripping the blubber off a sizeable whale in the 
same ** anyhow *' fashion as they handled their ship. 
They were in high glee, giving us a rousing cheer as we 
passed them on our westward coursa Arriving on the 
ground, we found a goodly company of fine ships, which 
I could not help thinking too mauy for so small an area. 
During our absence the Tamerlane had been joined by 
the Eliza Adams, the Matilda Sayer, the Coral, and the 
Rainbow ; and it was evident that no whale venturing 
within the radius of the Solander in the daytime would 
stand much chance of escaping such a battery of eager 
eyes. Only three days elapsed after our arrival when 
whales were seen. For the first time, I realized how 
numerous those gigantic denizens of the sea really are 
As far as the eye could reach, extending all round one- 
half of the horizon, the sea appeared to be alivo with 
spouts— all sperm whales, all bulls of great size. The 



336 THE CRUISE OF THE " CACHALOT.'' 

value of this incredible school must have been incalcul- 
able. Subsequent experience satisfied me that such a 
sight was by no means uncommon here ; in fact, ** lone 
whales " or small " pods " were quite the exception. 

Well, we all " waded in," getting, some two, some one 
whale apiece, according to the ability of the crews or the 
fortune of war. Only one fell to our lot in the Cachalot, 
but it was just as well. We had hardly got him fast by 
the fluke alongside when it began to pipe up from the 
north-east. In less than one watch the sea was fairly 
smoking with the fierceness of the wind. We were 
unable to get in anywhere, being, with a whale along- 
side, about as handy as a barge loaded with a haystack ; 
while those unfortunate beggars that had two whales 
fast to them were utterly helpless as far as independent 
locomotion went, unless they could run dead before the 
wind. Every ship made all snug aloft, and hoisted the 
boats to the top notch of the cranes, fully anticipating a 
long, hard struggle with the elements before they got 
back to the cruising ground again. Cutting-in was out 
of the question in such weather ; the only thing possible 
was to hope for a shift of wind before she got too far 
out, or a break in the weather. Neither of these events 
was probable, as all frequenters of South New Zealand 
know, bad weather having there an unhappy knack of 
being as persistent as fine weather is brief. 

Night drew on as our forlorn and heavily-handi- 
capped little fleet bore steadily seaward with their 
burdens, the angry, ever-increasing sea battering at us 
vengefully, while the huge carcasses alongside tore and 
strained at their fastenings as if they would rend the 
ships asunder. Slowly our companions faded from 
eight as the murky sky shut down on us, until in 
lonely helplessness we drifted on our weary way out into 



ON TUB SOLANDEB 0R0UND3. 337 

the vast, inhospitable Southern Ocean. Throoghout the 
dark and stormy night our brave old ship held on her 
unwilling way right gallantly, makuig no water, in spite 
of the fearful strain to which she was subjected, nor 
taking any heavy sea over all. Morning broke cheer- 
lessly enough. No abatement in the gale or change in 
its direction; indeed, it looked like lasting a month. 
Only one ship was visible far to leeward of us, and she 
was hull down. Our whale was beginning to swell 
rapidly, already floating at least three feet above the 
surface instead of just awash, as when newly killed. 
The skipper eyed it gloomily, seeing the near prospect 
of its entire loss, but he said nothing. In fact, very 
little was said ; but the stories we had heard in the Bay 
of Islands came back to us with significant force now 
that thehr justification was so apparent. 

Hour after hour went by without any change what- 
ever, except in the whale, which, like some gradually- 
filling balloon, rose higher and higher, till at nightfall 
its bulk was appalling. All through the night those on 
deck did little else but stare at its increasing sixe, which, 
when morning dawned again, was so great that the 
animal's bilge rode level with the ship's rail, while in 
her lee rolls it towered above the deck like a mountain. 
The final scene with it was now a question of minutes 
only, so most of us, fascinated by the strange spectacle, 
watched and waited. Suddenly, with a roar like the 
bursting of a dam, the pent-up gases tore their furious 
way out of the distended carcass, hurling the entrails in 
one horrible entanglement widespread over the sea. It 
was well for us that it was to leeward and a strong 
gale howling; for even then the unutterable foetor 
wrought its poisonous way back through that fierce, pure 
blast, permeating every nook of the ship with its £'ithy 



338 TEE CRUISE OF TEE " CACEALOT,** 

vapour till the stoutest stomach there protested in 
unmistakable terms against such vile treatment. Know- 
ing too well that the blubber was now worthless, the 
skipper gave orders to cut the corrupt mass adrift. This 
was speedily effected by a few strokes of a spade through 
the small. Away went eight hundred pounds* worth of 
oil — another sacrifice to the exigencies of the Solander, 
such as had gained for it so evil a reputation. 

Doubtless a similar experience had befallen all the 
other ships, so that the aggregate loss must have run 
into thousands of pounds, every penny of which might 
have been saved had steam been available. 

That gale lasted, with a few short lulls, for five days 
longer. When at last it took off, and was succeeded by 
fine weather, we were so far to the southward that we 
might have fetched the Aucklands in another twenty- 
four hours. But, to our great relief, a strong southerly 
breeze set in, before which, under every rag of canvas, 
we sped north again. 

Steady and reliable as ever, that good south wind 
carried us back to our old cruising ground ere it blew itself 
out, and we resumed our usual tactics as if nothing had 
happened, being none the worse as regards equipment 
for our adventures. Not so fortunate our companions, 
who at the same time as ourselves were thrust out 
into the vast Southern Ocean, helplessly burdened and 
exposed defenceless to all the ferocity of that devouring 
gale. Two of them were here prowling about, showing 
evident signs of their conflict in the battered state of 
their hulls. The glaring whiteness of new planking in 
many places along the bulwarks told an eloquent story 
of seas bursting on board carrying all before them, 
while empty cranes testified to the loss of a boat in 
both of them. As soon as we came near enough. 



ON THE SOLANDER GROUNDS. 339 

" gamming '* commenced, for all of us were anxious to 
know how each other had fared. 

As we anticipated, every whalo was lost that had 
heen caught that day. The disappointment was in 
nowise lessened hy the knowledge that, with his usual 
good fortune. Captain Gilroy had not only escaped all 
the bad weather, but while we were being threshed 
within an inch of our lives down in the bitter south, he 
was calmly trying-out his whale (which we had seen 
him with on our outward journey) in the sheltered 
haven of Port William. Many and deep were the 
curses bestowed upon him by the infuriated crews of 
those two ships, although he had certainly done them 
no harm. But the sight of other people's good fortune 
is gall and wormwood to a vast number of people, 
who seem to take it as a personal injury done to 
themselves. 

Only two days elapsed, however, before we again 
saw an immense school of sperm whales, and each ship 
succeeded in securing one. We made no attempt to 
get more this time, nor do I think either of the others 
did ; at any rate, one each was the result of the day's 
worL They were, as usual, of huge size and apparently 
very fat. At the time we secured our fish alongside, 
a fresh north-westerly wind was bbwing, the weather 
being clear and beautiful as heart could wish. But 
instead of commencing at once to cut-in. Captain Count 
gave orders to pile on all sail and keep her away up the 
Straits. He was evidently determined to take no more 
chances, but, whenever opportunity offered, to follow the 
example set by the wily old skipper of the Chance. 
The other ships both started to cut-in at once, tempted, 
doubtless, by the settled appearance of the weather, and 
also perhaps from their hardly concealed dislike of 



340 TEE CRUISE OF THE ''CACHALOT.'* 

going into port. We bowled along at a fine rate, towing 
our prize, that plunged and rolled by our side in 
eccentric style, almost as if still alive. Along about 
midnight we reached Saddle Point, where there wa& 
some shelter from the sea which rolled up the wide 
open strait, and there we anchored. 

Leaving me and a couple of Kanakas on watch, the 
captain, and all hands besides, went below for a little 
sleep. My instructions were to call the captain if the 
weather got at all ugly-looking, so that we might run in 
to Port William at once, but he did not wish to do so if 
our present position proved sujBBciently sheltered. He 
had not been below an hour before there was a change 
for the worse. That greasy, filmy haze was again drawn 
over the clear blue of the sky, and the light scud began 
to fly overhead at an alarmingly rapid rate. So at four 
bells I called him again. He came on deck at once, 
and after one look round ordered the hands up to man 
the windlass. By eight bells (four a.m.) we were 
rounding the frowning rocks at the entrance of Port 
William, and threading our way between the closely-set, 
kelp-hidden dangers as if it were broadest, clearest 
daylight. At 4.30 we let go the anchor again, and all 
hands, except the regular ** anchor- watch," bolted below 
to their bunks again like so many rabbits. 

It was very comfortable, cutting-in a sperm whale in 
harbour, after the dire difficulty of performing the same 
operation in a seaway. And, although it may seem 
strange, this was the first occasion that voyage that I 
had had a really good opportunity of closely studying 
the whale's anatomy. Consequently the work was 
exceedingly interesting, and, in spite of the labour 
involved, I was almost sorry when the job was done. 
Under the present favourable circumstances we were 



ON TEE SO LANDER GROUND 3. 341 

ready to cut the carcass adrift shortly after midday, the 
head, of course, having heen taken off first. Just after 
we started to cut in a hoat appeared alongside with six 
Maories and half-hreeds on board. Their leader came 
up and civilly asked the skipper whether he intended 
doing anything with the carcass. Upon being promptly 
answered in the negative, he said that he and his 
companions proposed hooking on to the great mass 
when we cut it adrift, towing it ashore, and getting out 
of it what oil we had been unable to extract, which 
at sea is always lost to the ship. He also suggested 
that he would be prepared to take reasonable terms for 
such oil, which we should be able to mingle with ours 
to our advantage. An arrangement was speedily 
arrived at to give him £20 per tun for whatever oil he 
made. They parted on the best of terms with each 
other, and as soon as we cut the carcass loose the 
Maories made fast to it, speedily beaching it in a 
convenient spot near where they had previously erected 
a most primitive try-works. 

That afternoon, after the head was inboard, the 
skipper thought he would go ashore and see how they 
were getting on. I was so fortunate as to be able to 
accompany him. When we arrived at the spot, we found 
them working as I have never seen men work, except 
perhaps the small riggers that at home take a job — three 
or four of them — to bend or unbend a big ship's sails for 
a lump sum to be paid when the work is done. They 
attacked the carcass furiously, as if they had a personal 
enmity against it, chopping through the massive bones 
and rending off huge lumps of the flesh with marvellous 
speed. They had already laid open the enormous cavity 
of the abdomen, and were stripping the interminable in- 
testines of their rich coating of fat. In the maw there 



342 THE CRUISE OF TEE ''CACHALOT,'' 

were, besides a large quantity of dismembered squid of 
great size, a number of fish, such as rock-cod, barra- 
couta, schnapper, and the like, whose presence there was 
a revelation to me. How in the name of wonder so huge 
and unwieldly a creature as the cachalot could manage 
to catch those nimble members of the finny tribe, I could 
not for the life of me divine ! Unless — and after much 
cogitation it was the only feasible explanation that I 
could see — as the cachalot ewims about with his \(mQx 
jaw hanging down in its noimal position, and his huge 
gullet gaping like some submarine cavern, the fish 
unwittingly glide down it, to find egress impossible. 
This may or may not be the case ; but I, at any rate, can 
find no more reasonable theory, for it is manifestly 
absurd to suppose the whale capable of catching fish in 
the ordinary sense, indicating pursuit 

Every part of the animal yielded oil. Even the 
bones, broken up into pieces capable of entering the pot, 
were boiled ; and by the time we had finished our trying- 
out, the result of the Maories' labour was ready for us. 
Less than a week had sufi&ced to yield them a net sum 
of six guineas each, even at the very low rate for which 
they sold us the oil. Except that it was a little darker in 
colour, a defect that would disappear when mixed with 
our store, tliere was no difference between the products 
that could be readily detected. And at the price we 
paid for it, there was a clear profit of cent per cent, even 
had we kept it separate and sold it for what it was. 
But I suppose it was worth the Maories' while thus to 
dispose of it and quickly realize their hard earnings. 

So far, our last excursion had been entirely satis- 
factory. We had not suffered any loss or endured any 
hardship ; and if only such comfortable proceedings 
were more frequent, the Solander ground would not 



ON THE SOLANDER GROUNDS. 343 

have any terrors for us at least. But one afteriioon 
there crept in around the eastern horn of the harhour 
three forlorn and half-dismantled vessels, whose weather- 
worn crews looked wistfully at us engaged in clearing 
up decks and putting away gear upon the finishing of 
our trying-oat. Poor fellows ! they had seen rough 
times since that unforgettahle evening when we parted 
from them at the other end of the island, and watched 
them slowly fade into the night. Two of them were so 
hadly damaged that no further fishing was possible for 
them until they had undergone a thorough refit, such as 
they could not manage there. One was leaking badly^ 
the tremendous strain put upon her hull in the vaii^ 
attempt to hold on to the two whales she had during the 
gale having racked her almost all to pieces. The third 
one was still capable of taking the ground again, with 
sundry repairs such as could be effected by her crew. 
But the general feeling among all three crews was that 
there was more loss than gain to be expected here, in 
spite of the multitude of whales visiting the place. 

As if to fill up their cup, in came the old Chance 
again, this time with a whale on each side. Captain 
Gilroy was on the house aft, his chubby red face in a 
ruddy glow of delight, and his crew exuberant. "When 
he passed the American ships, as he was bound to do 
very closely, the sight of their scowling faces seemed to 
afford him the most exquisite amusement, and he 
laughed loud and long. His crew, on the impulse of 
the moment, sprang to the rail and cheered with might 
and main. No one could gainsay that they had good 
reason, but I really feared for a time that we should 
have ** ructions." As Paddy said, it was not wise oi 
dignified for those ofiicers to be so angry with him on 
account of his success, which he frankly owned was dnt 



344 TUB CRUISE OF TEE " CACHALOT," 

almost entirely to the local knowledge he possessed, 
gained in many years* study of the immediate neigh- 
bourhood. He declared that, as far as the technical 
duties of whale-fishing went, all the Americans could 
beat him hollow ; but they ought to realize that some- 
thing else w^as needed here which no man could hope 
to have unless he were content to remain on the 
coast altogether. With which words of wisdom our 
skipper cordially agreed, bearing in mind his own 
exploits in the bygone time around those rugged 
shores. 

The strong breeze which brought Paddy and his 
whales home died down that night, enabling us to start 
for the grounds again — a concession gratefully received, 
for not the least of the hindrances felt there was the 
liability to be " wind-bound " for a long time, while fine 
weather was prevailing at the fishing grounds. 

We made a fine passage down the Straits with a 
leading wind, finding our two late companions still 
cruising, having managed to get their whales aboard 
without mishap, and being somewhat inclined to chaff 
our old man for running in. He gave a wink full of 
wisdom, as he replied, "I'm pretty ole whale myself 
naouw ; but I guess I ain*t too old to learn ; 'n wut I 
learn I'm goin' ter use. See ? " Of course the fine 
weather did not last long — it never does ; and seeing the 
gloomy masses of violet-edged cumuli piling up on the 
southern horizon, we hugged the Solander Eock itself 
pretty close, nor ventured far to seaward. Our two 
consorts, on. the contrary, kept well out and on the 
northern verge, as if they intended the next gale that 
blew to get north, i/they could. The old man's object 
in thus keeping in was solely in order that he might be 
able to run for shelter ; but, much to his delight and 



ON TUB SOLANDER QB0UND8. 345 

certainly Burprise, as we passed about a mile to the 
southward of the lonely, towering crags of the great 
rock, there came from aloft the welcome cry of ** Sperm 
whale ! " 

There was only one, and he was uncomfortably near 
the rock; but such a B2)londid chance was not to be 
missed, if omr previous training was of any avail. There 
was some speculation as to what he could be doing so 
close inshore, contrary to the habit of this animal, who 
seems to be only comfortable when in deep waters ; but 
except a suggestion that perhaps he had come in to 
scrape off an extra accumulation of barnacles, nobody 
could arrive at any definite conclusion. When we 
reached him, we found a frightful blind swell rolling, 
and it needed all our seamanship to handle the boats 
so that they should not be capsized. Fortunately, the 
huge rollers did not break, or we should hardly have 
got back safely, whale or no whale. 

Two irons were planted in him, of which he took 
not the slightest notice. We had taken in sail before 
closing in to him on account of the swell, so that we 
had only to go in and finish him at once, if he would 
let us. Accordingly, we went in with a will, but for all 
sign of life he showed he might as well have been 
stuffed. There he lay, lazily sponting, the blood 
pouring, or rather spirting, from his numerous wounds, 
allowing us to add to their number at our pleasure, and 
never moving his vast body, which was gently swayed 
by the rolling sea. Seeing him thus quiescent, the 
mate sent the other two boats back to the ship with 
the good news, which the captain received with a grave 
smile of content, proceeding at once to bring the ship as 
near as might be consistent with her safety. We were 
now thoroughly sheltered from sight of the other ships 



346 TEE CRUISE OF THE " CACBALOTr 

by the enormous mass of the island, so that they had 
no idea of our proceedings. 

Finding that it was not wise to take the ship in any 
closer, while we were yet some distance from our prize, a 
boat was sent to Mr. Cruce with the instructions that he 
was to run his line from the whale back to the ship, if the 
creature was dead. He (the mate) replied that the whale 
died as quietly as he had taken his wounds, and imme- 
diately started for the ship. When he had paid out all 
his line, another boat bent on, until we got the end on 
board. Then we merrily walked him up alongside, 
while sufficient sail was kept drawing to prevent her 
being set in any nearer. When he was fast, we 
crowded on all canvas to get away; for although the 
sea was deep close up to the cliff, that swell was a very 
ugly feature, and one which has been responsible for 
the loss of a great number of ships in such places 
all over the world. Notwithstanding all our efforts, we 
did get so near that every detail of the rock was clearly 
visible to the naked eye, and we had some anxious 
minutes while the old ship, rolling tremendously, crawled 
inch after inch along the awful side of that sea-encircled 
pyramid. 

At one point there was quite a cave, the floor of 
which would be some twenty feet above high-water mark» 
and its roof about the same distance higher. It appeared 
to penetrate some distance into the bowels of the 
mountain, and was wide and roomy. Sea-birds in great 
numbers hovered around its entrance, finding it, no 
doubt, an ideal nesting-place. It appeared quite inac- 
cessible, for even with a perfect calm the swell dashed 
against the perpendicular face of the cliff beneath with 
a force that would have instantly destroyed any vessel 
unfortunate enough to get within its influence. 



ON Ti/A' SOLA^DEU GliUUSBS. 347 

Slowly, bIowIj we forged past the danger; but the 
moment we opened out the extremity of the island, a 
fresh breeze, like a saving hand, swept across the bows, 
filling the head-sails and swinging the old vessel away 
from the island in grand style. Another minate, and 
the other sails filled also. We were safe, all hands 
breathing freely once more. 

Now the wind hung far round to the eastward — far 
enough to frustrate any design we might have had of 
going up the Straits again. The old man, however, was 
too deeply impressed with the paramount necessity of 
shelter to lightly give up the idea of getting in some- 
where ; BO he pointed her for Preservation Inlet, which 
was only some thirty miles under her lee. We crowded 
all sail upon her in the endeavour to get in before night- 
fall, this unusual proceeding bringing our two friends 
np from to leeward with a run to see what we were 
after. Burdened as we were, they sailed nearly two 
knots to our one, and consequently intercepted us 
some while before we neored our port. Great was their 
surprise to find we had a whale, and very anxious their 
queries as to where the rest of the school had gone. 
Beassured that they had lost nothing by not being 
nearer, it being a *' lone " whale, ofif they went again. 

With all our efforts, evening was fast closing in when 
we entered the majestic portals of PreEervation Inlet, 
and gazed with deepest interest upon its heavily- wooded 
shores. 



348 TEE CRUISE OF TEE " CAGEALOT.*' 



CHAPTER XXVI. 

paddy's latest exploit. 

New Zealand is pre-eminently a country of grand 
harbours ; but I think those that are least used easily 
bear the palm for grandeur of scenery and facility of 
access. The wonderful harbour, or rather series of 
harbours, into which we were now entering for the first 
time, greatly resembled in appearance a Norwegian fjord, 
not only in the character of its scenery, but from the 
interesting, if disconcerting, fact that the cliffs were 
so steep-to that in some places no anchorage is found 
alongside the very land itself. There are, however, 
many places where the best possible anchorage can be 
obtained, so securely sheltered that a howling south- 
wester may be tearing the sea up by the roots outside, 
and you will know nothing of it within, except what may 
be surmised from the motion of the clouds overhead. It 
was an ideal place for a whaling station, being right on 
the Solander. 

We found it exceedingly convenient, and much nearer 
than Port William, but, from the prevailing winds, diffi- 
cult of access in nine cases out of ten, especially when 
hampered with a whale. Upon cutting-in our latest 
catch, an easy explanation of his passive attitude was 
at once forthcoming. He had been attacked by some 



PADDY'S LATEST EXPLOIT, 349 

whale-ship, whose irons had drawn, leaving deep traces 
of their presence ; hut during the battle he had received 
seven bombs, all of which had entered around his 
small, but had not exploded. Their general effect had 
been, I should think, to paralyze the great muscles 
of his flukes, rendering him unable to travel; yet 
this could not have taken place until some time after 
he bad made good his escape from those aggressors. 
It was instructive, as demonstrating what amount of 
injury these colossi really can survive, and I have no 
doubt that, if he had been left alone, he would have 
recovered his normal energy, and been as well as ever. 
From our point of view, of course, what had happened 
was the best possible thing, for he came almost as a 
gift — the second capture we had made on those grounds 
of a like nature. 

At the close of our operations the welcome news waa 
made public that four more fish like the present one 
would fill us bung-up, and that we should then, after a 
brief visit to the Bluff, start direct for home. This 
announcement, though expected for some time past, 
gave an amazing fillip to everybody's interest in the 
work. The strange spectacle was witnessed of all hands 
being anxious to quit a snug harbour for the sea, where 
stem, hard wrestling with the elements was the rule. 
The captain, well pleased with the eagerness manifested, 
had his boat manned for a trip to the entrance of the, 
harbour, to see what the weather was like outside, since 
it was not possible to judge from where the ship lay. 
On his return, he reported the weather rough, but 
moderating, and announced his intention of weighing 
at daylight next morning. Satisfied that our days in 
the southern hemisphere were numbered, and all anxiety 
to point her head for home, this news was most pleasing. 



350 THE CRUISE OF THE "CACHALOT.'' 

putting all of us in the best of humours, and provoking 
quite an entertainment of song and dance until nearly 
four bells. 

During the grey of dawn the anchor was weighed. 
There was no breath of wind from any quarter, so that 
it was necessary to lower boats and tow the old girl out 
to her field of duty. Before she was fairly clear of the 
harbour, though, there came a ** snifter " from the hills 
that caught her unprepared, making her reel again, and 
giving us a desperate few minutes to scramble on board 
and hoist our boats up. As we drew out from the land, 
we found that a moderate gale was blowing, but the sky 
was clear, fathomless blue, the sun rose kindly, a heavenly 
dream of soft delicate colour preceding him ; so that, in 
spite of the strong breeze, all looked promising for a good 
campaign. At first no sign could be seen of any of the 
other ships, though we looked long and eagerly for them. 
At last we saw them, four in all, nearly hull down to 
seaward, but evidently coming in under press of sail. 
So slow, however, was their approach that we had made 
one ** leg " across the ground and halfway back before 
they were near enough for us to descry the reason of 
their want of speed. They had each got a whale alongside, 
and were carrying every rag of canvas they could spread, 
in order to get in with their prizes. 

Our old acquaintance, the Chance, was there, the three 
others being her former competitors, except those who 
were disabled, still lying in Port William. Slowly, pain- 
fully they laboured along, until well within the mouth of 
the Straits, when, without any warning, the wind which 
had been bringing them in suddenly flew round into the 
northward, putting them at once in a most perilous posi- 
tion. Too far within the Straits to " up helm " and ruu 
for it out to sea ; not far enough to get anywhere that an 



PADDTS LATEST EXPLOIT, 851 

anchor might hold ; and there to leoward, within less than 
a dozen miles, loomed grim and gloomy one of the most 
terrific rock-hound coasts in the world. The shift of 
wind had placed the Chance farther to leeward than all 
the rest, a good mile and a half nearer the shore ; and we 
could well imagine how anxiously her movements were 
heing watched hy the others, who, in spite of their 
jealousy of his good luck, knew well and appreciated 
fully Paddy's marvellous seamanship, as well as his 
unparalleled knowledge of the coast. 

Having no whale to hamper our movements, besides 
being well to windward of them all, we were perfectly 
comfortable as long as we kept to seaward of a certain 
line and the gale was not too fierce, so for the present all 
our attention was concentrated upon the labouring ships 
to leeward. The intervention of the land to windward 
kept the sea from rising to the awful height it attains 
under the pressure of a westerly, or a south-westerly 
gale, when, gathering momentum over an area extending 
right round the globe, it hurls itself upon those rugged 
shores. Still, it was bad enough. The fact of the gale 
striking across the regular set of the swell and current 
had the effect of making the sea irregular, short, and 
broken, which state of things is considered worse, as far 
as handling the ship goes, than a much heavier, longer, 
but more regular succession of waves. 

As the devoted craft drifted helplessly down upon that 
frowning barrier, our excitement grew intense. Their 
inability to do anything but drift was only too well known 
by experience to every one of us, nor would it be possible 
for them to escape at all if they persisted in holding on 
much longer. But it was easy to see why they did so. 
While Paddy held on so far to leeward of them, and con- 
sequently in so much more imminent danger than they 



352 THE CRUISE OF THE " CACHALOT.'* 

were, it would be derogatory in the highest degree to 
their reputation for seamanship and courage were they 
to slip and run before he did. He, however, showed no 
sign of doing so, although they all neared, with an 
accelerated drift, that point from whence no seamanship 
could deliver them, and where death inevitable, cruel, 
awaited them without hope of escape. The part of the 
coast upon which they were apparently driving was 
about as dangerous and impracticable as any in the 
world. A gigantic barrier of black, naked rock, extend- 
ing for several hundred yards, rose sheer from the sea 
beneath, like the side of an ironclad, up to a height of 
seven or eight hundred feet. No outlying spurs of sub- 
merged fragments broke the immeasurable landward rush 
of the majestic waves towards the frowning face of this 
world-fragment. Fresh from their source, with all the 
impetus accumulated in their thousand-mile journey, 
they came apparently irresistible. Against this perpen- 
dicular barrier they hurled themselves with a shock that 
vibrated far inland, and a roar that rose in a domi- 
nating diapason over the continuous thunder of the 
tempest-riven sea. High as was the summit of the cliff, 
the spray, hurled upwards by the tremendous impact, rose 
higher, so that the whole front of the great rock was 
veiled in filmy wreaths of foam, hiding its solidity from 
the seaward view. At either end of this vast rampart 
nothing could be seen but a waste of breakers seething, 
hissing, like the foot of Niagara, and effectually conceal- 
ing the chevaux defrise of rocks which produced such a 
vortex of tormented waters. 

Towards this dreadful spot, then, the four vessels were 
being resistlessly driven, every moment seeing their 
chances of escape lessening to vanishing-point. Suddenly, 
as if panic-stricken, the ship nearest to the Chance gave 



PADDY'S LATEST EXPLOIT. 353 

a great sweep round on to the other tack, a few flutter- 
ing gleams aloft showing that even in that storm they 
were daring to set some sail. What the manoeavre 
meant we knew very well — they had cut adrift from their 
whale, terrified at last heyond endurance into the belief 
that Paddy was going to sacrifice himself and his crew 
in the attempt to lure them with him to inevitable de- 
struction. The other two did not hesitate longer. The 
example once set, they immediately followed ; but it was 
for some time doubtful in the extreme whether their 
resolve was not taken too late to save them from destruc- 
iion. We watched them with breathless interest, unable 
for a long time to satisfy ourselves that they were out of 
danger. But at last we saw them shortening sail again 
— a sure sign that they considered themselves, while the 
wind held in the same quarter, safe from going ashore 
at any rate, although there was still before them the 
prospect of a long struggle with the unrelenting ferocity 
of the weather down south. 

Meanwhile, what of the daring Irishman and his old 
barrel of a ship ? The fugitives once safe off the land, 
all our interest centred in the Chance. We watched her 
until she drew in so closely to the seething cauldron of 
breakers that it was only occasionally we could distin- 
guish her outline ; and the weather was becoming so 
thick and dirty, the light so bad, that we were reluctantly 
compelled to lose sight of her, although the skipper 
believed that he saw her in the midst of the turmoil of 
broken water at the western end of the mighty mass of 
perpendicular cliff before described. Happily for us, the 
wind veered to the westward, releasing us from the pro- 
spect of another enforced visit to the wild regions south 
of the island. It blew harder than ever ; but being now 
a fair wind up the Straits, we fled before it, anchoring 

2a 



354 TEE CRUISE OF TEE "CACHALOT." 

again iu Port "William before midnight. Here we were 
compelled to remain for a week ; for after the gale blew 
itself out, the wind still hung in the same quarter, refusing 
to allow us to get back again to our cruising station. 

But on the second day of our enforced detention a 
ship poked her jibboom round the west end of the little 
bay. No words could describe our condition of spell- 
bound astonishment when she rounded-to, cumbrously 
as befitting a ship towing a whale, and revealed to us 
the well-remembered outlines of the old Chance, It was 
like welcoming the first-fruits of the resurrection; for 
who among sailor men, having seen a vessel disappear 
from their sight, as we had, under such terrible condi- 
tions, would ever have expected to see her again ? She 
was hardly anchored before our skipper was alongside, 
thirsting to satisfy his unbounded curiosity as to the un- 
heard-of means whereby she had escaped such apparently 
inevitable destruction. I was fortunate enough to 
accompany him, and hear the story at first-hand. 

It appeared that none of the white men on board, 
except the redoubtable Paddy himself, had ever been 
placed in so seemingly hopeless and desperate a position 
before. Yet when they saw how calm and fi*ee from 
anxiety their commander was, how cool and business- 
like the attitude of all their dusky shipmates, their con- 
fidence in his ability and resourcefulness kept its usual 
high level. It must be admitted that the test such 
feelings were then subjected to was of the severest, for 
to their eyes no possible avenue of escape was open. 
Along that glaring line of raging, foaming water not a 
break occurred, not the faintest indication of an opening 
anywhere wherein even so experienced a pilot as Paddy 
might thrust a ship. The great black wall of rock 
loomed up by their side, grim and pitiless as doom — a 



PADDY'S LATEST EXPLOIT, 355 

very door of adamant closed against all hope. Nearer 
and nearer they drew, until the roar of the baffled 
Pacific was deafening, maddening, in its overwhelming 
volume of chaotic sound. All hands stood motionless, 
with eyes fixed in horrible fascination upon the indescrib- 
able vortex to which they were being irresistibly driven. 

At last, just as the fringes of the back-beaten billows 
hissed up to greet them, they felt her motion ease. 
Instinctively looldng aft, they saw the skipper coolly wave 
his hand, signing to them to trim the yards. As they 
hauled on the weather braces, she plunged through the 
maelstrom of breakers, and before they had got the yards 
right round they were on the other side of that enormous 
barrier, the anchor was dropped, and all was still. The 
vessel rested, like a bird on her nest, in a deep, still tarn, 
shut in, to all appearance, on every side by huge rock 
barriers. Of the furious storm but a moment before 
howling and raging all around them, nothing remained 
but an all-pervading, thunderous hum, causing the deck 
to vibrate beneath them, and high overhead the jagged, 
leaden remnants of twisted, tortured cloud whirling past 
their tiny oblong of sky. Just a minute's suspension of all 
faculties but wonder, then, in one spontaneous, hearifelt 
note of genuine admiration, all hands burst into a cheer 
that even overtopped the mighty rumble of the baffled sea. 

Here they lay, perfectly secure, and cut in their whale 
as if in dock ; then at the first opportunity they ran out, 
with fearful difficulty, a kedge with a whale-line attached, 
by which means they warped the vessel out of her hiding- 
place — a far more arduous operation than getting in had 
been. But even this did not exhaust the wonders of that 
occasion. They had hardly got way upon her, beginning 
to draw out from the land, when the eagle-eye of one of 
the Maories detected the carcass of a whale rolling among 



356 TEE CRUISE OF THE *' CACHALOT.'' 

the breakers about half a mile to the westward. Imme- 
diately a boat was lowered, a double allowance of line put 
into her, and off they went to the valuable flotsam. 
Dangerous in the highest degree was the task of getting 
near enough to drive harpoons into the body ; but it was 
successfully accomplished, the line run on board, and the 
prize hauled triumphantly alongside. This was the whale 
they had now brought in. We shrewdly suspected that 
it must have been one of those abandoned by the un- 
fortunate vessels who had fled, but etiquette forbade us 
saying anything about it. Even had it been, another 
day would have seen it valueless to any one, for it was by 
no means otto of roses to sniff at now, while they had 
certainly salved it at the peril of their lives. 

When we returned on board and repeated the story, 
great was the amazement. Such a feat of seamanship was 
almost beyond belief; but we were shut up to believing, 
since in no other way could the vessel's miraculous escape 
be accounted for. The little, dumpy, red-faced figure, 
rigged like any scarecrow, that now stood on his cutting- 
stage, punching away vigorously at the fetid mass of 
blubber beneath him, bore no outward visible sign of a 
hero about him ; but in our eyes he was transfigured — a 
being to be thought of reverently, as one who in all those 
qualities that go to the making of a man had proved 
himself of the seed royal, a king of men, all the more 
kingly because unconscious that his deeds were of so 
exalted an order. 

I am afraid that, to a landsman, my panegyric may 
smack strongly of gush, for no one but a seaman can 
rightly appraise such doings as these ; but I may be per- 
mitted to say that, when I think of men whom I feel glad 
to have lived to know, foremost among them rises the 
queer little figure of Paddy Gilroy. 



( 357 ) 



CHAPTER XXVIL 

PORT PEGASUS. 

The wind still holding steadily in the old quarter, our 
skipper got very restless. He recalled his former exploits, 
and, firing at the thought, decided then and there to have 
a trip round to Port Pegasus, in the hope that he might 
meet with some of his former good luck in the vicinity 
of that magnificent bay. With the greatest alacrity we 
obeyed his summons, handling the old barky as if she 
were a small boat, and the same morning, for the first 
time, ran out of the Straits to the eastward past Ruapuke 
Island. Beautiful weather prevailed, making our trip a 
delightful one, the wonderful scenery of that coast appeal- 
ing to even the most callous or indifferent among us. 
"We hugged the land closely, the skipper being familiar 
with all of it in a general way, so that none of its beauties 
were lost to us. The breeze holding good, by nightfall 
we had reached our destination, anchoring in the north 
arm near a tumbling cascade of glittering water that 
looked like a long feather laid on the dark-green slope of 
the steep hill from which it gushed. 

We had not been long at anchor before we had visitors 
— half-breed Maories, who, like the Finns and Canadians, 
are farmers, fishermen, sailors, and shipwrights, as 
necessity arises. They brought us potatoes — most 
welcome of all fruit to the sailor — cabbages, onions, and 



358 THE CRUISE OF TEE " CACHALOT." 

** mutton birds." This latter delicacy is a great staple 
of their flesh food, but is one of the strangest dishes 
imaginable. When it is being cooked in the usual way, 
i.e. by grilling, it smells exactly like a piece of roasting 
mutton ; but it tastes, to my mind, like nothing else in 
the world so much as a kippered herring. There is a gas- 
tronomical paradox, if you like. Only the young birds 
are taken for eating. They are found, when unfledged, in 
holes of the rocks, and weigh sometimes treble as much 
as their parents. They are exceedingly fat ; but this 
substance is nearly all removed from their bodies before 
they are hung up in the smoke-houses. They are split 
open like a haddock, and carefully smoked, after being 
steeped in brine. Baskets, something like exaggerated 
strawberry pottles of the old conical shape, are prepared, 
to hold each about a dozen birds. They are lined with 
leaves, then packed with the birds, the melted fat being 
run into all the interstices until the basket is full. The 
top is then neatly tied up with more leaves, and, thus 
preserved, the contents will keep in cool weather an 
indefinite length of time. 

Captain Count was soon recognized by some of his 
old friends, who were delighted to welcome him again. 
Their faces fell, however, when he told them that his 
stay was to be very brief, and that he only required four 
good-sized fish to fill up. Inquiry as to the prevalence 
of sperm whales in the vicinity elicited the news that they 
were as plentiful as they had ever been — if anything, more 
so, since the visits of the whalers had become fewer. 
There were a couple of " bay " whaling stations existing ; 
but, of course, their success could not be expected to be 
great among the cachalots, who usually keep a respect- 
ful distance from harbours, while they had driven the 
right whales away almost entirely. 



PORT PEGASUS. 359 

No one coclcl help being struck by the manly bearing, 
splendid physique, and simple manners of the inhabitants. 
If ever it falls to the lot of any one, as I hope it will, to 
establish a sperm whale fishery in these regions, there 
need be no In' 1; of workers while such grand specimens 
of manhood abound there as we saw — all, moreover, 
fishermen and whalers from their earliest days. 

We did not go far afield, but hovered within ten or 
fifteen miles of the various entrances, so as not to be 
blown off the land in case of sudden bad weather. Even 
with that timid offing, we were only there two days, 
when an enormous school of sperm whales hove in sight. 
I dare not say how many I believe there were, and my 
estimate really might be biassed ; but this I know, that 
in no given direction could one look to seaward and not 
see many spouts. 

"We got among them and had a good time, being 
more hampered by the curiosity of the unattached fish 
than by the pugnacity of those under our immediate 
attention. So we killed three, and by preconcerted 
signal warned the watchers on the lofty points ashore of 
our success. As speedily as possible off came four boats 
from the shore stations, and hooked on to two of our fish, 
while we were busy with the third. The wind being off 
shore, what there was of it, no time was to be lost, in 
view of the well-known untrustworthiness of the weather ; 
so we started to cut-in at once, while the shore people 
worked like giants to tow the other two in. Considering 
the weakness of their forces, they made marvellous 
progress ; but seeing how terribly exhausting the toil was, 
one could not help wishing them one of the small London 
tugs, familiarly known as " jackals,'* which would have 
snaked those monsters along at three or four knots an 
hour. 



360 TEE CRUISE OF TEE " CACEALOT** 

However, all went well ; the usual gale did blow, but 
not till we had got the last piece aboard and a good 
"slant" to run in, arriving at our previous moorings 
at midnight. In the morning the skipper went down in 
his boat to visit the stations, and see how they had fared. 
Old hand as he was, I think he was astonished to see 
what progress those fellows had made with the fish. 
They did not reach the stations till after midnight, but 
already they had the whales half flenched, and, by the 
way they were working, it looked as if they would be 
through with their task as soon as we were with ours. 
Their agreement with the skipper was to yield us half 
the oil they made, and, if agreeable to them, we would 
take their moiety at £40 per tun. Consequently they 
had something to work for, even though there were 
twenty of them to share the spoil. They were a merry 
party, eminently good tempered, and working as though 
one spirit animated them all. If there was a leader of 
the band, he did his office with great subtilty, for all 
seemed equal, nor did any appear to need directing what 
to do. Fired by their example, we all worked our hardest ; 
but they beat us by half a day, mainly, I think, by dint 
of working nearly all the time with scarce any interval 
for sleep. True, they were bound to take advantage of 
low water when their huge prize was high and dry — to 
get at him easily all round. Their method was of the 
simplest. With gaff-hooks to haul back the pieces, and 
short-handled spades for cutting, they worked in pairs, 
taking off square slabs of blubber about a hundredweight 
each. As soon as a piece was cut off, the pair tackled 
on to it, dragging it up to the pots, where the cooks 
hastily sliced it for boiling, interspersing their labours 
with attention to the simmering cauldrons. 

Their efforts realized twenty-four tuns of clear oil 



POST PEGASUS, 361 

and spermaceti, of which, according to bargain, we took 
twelve, the captain buying the other twelve for £480, 
as previously arranged. This latter portion, however, 
was his private venture, and not on ship's account, as 
he proposed selling it at the Bluff, when we should call 
there on our way home. So that we were still two whales 
short of our quantity. What a little space it did seem 
to fill up ! Our patience was sorely tested, when, 
during a whole week following our last haul, we were 
unable to put to sea. In vain we tried all the old 
amusements of fishing, rambling, bathing, etc. ; they 
had lost their " bite ; " we wanted to get home. At 
last the longed-for shift of wind came and set us free. 
We had hardly got well clear of the heads before we 
saw a school of cachalots away on the horizon, some 
twelve miles off the land to the southward. We made 
all possible sail in chase, but found, to our dismay, 
that they were ** making a passage," going at such a 
rate that unless the wind freshened we could hardly hope 
to come up with them. Fortunately, we had all day 
before us, having quitted our moorings soon after day- 
light ; and unless some unforeseen occurrence prevented 
us from keeping up our rate of speed, the chances were 
that some time before dark they would ease up and allow 
us to approach them. They were heading to the west- 
ward, perhaps somewhat to the northward withal, to all 
appearance making for the Solander. Hour after hour 
crawled by, while we still seemed to preserve our relative 
distance, until we bad skirted the southern shore of the 
island and entered the area of our old fishing ground. 
Two vessels were cruising thereon, well to the northward, 
and we thought with glee of the excitement that would 
seize them did they but gain an inkling of our clmse. 
To our great delight, what we had hoped, but hardly 



362 TEE CRUISE OF TEE " CACHALOT.'' 

dared expect, came to pass. The school, as if with one 
impulse, hauled up on their course four points, which 
made them head direct for the western verge of the 
Bolander ground, and — what was more important to us 
— made our coming up with them a matter of a short 
time. We made the customary signals with the upper 
sails to our friends to the northward, who recognized 
them immediately, and bore down towards us. Not 
only had the school shifted their course, but they had 
slackened speed ; so that by four o'clock we were able 
to lower for them at less than a mile distance. 

It was an ideal whaling day — smooth water, a brisk 
breeze, a brilliant sun, and plenty of whales. I was, as 
became my position, in the rear when we went into 
action, and hardly hoped for an opportunity of doing 
much but dance attendance upon my seniors. But 
fortune favoured me. Before I had any idea whether 
the chief was fast or not, all other considerations were 
driven clean out of my head by the unexpected apparition 
of a colossal head, not a ship's length away, coming 
straight for us, throwing up a swell in front of him 
like an ironclad. There was barely time to sheer to one 
side, when the giant surged past us in a roar of foaming 
sea, the flying flakes of which went right over us. 
Samuela was *'all there," though, and as the great 
beast passed he plunged a harpoon into him with such 
force and vigour that the very socket entered the 
blubber. It needed all the strength I could muster, even 
with such an aid as the nineteen feet steer-oar, to swing 
the boat right round in his wake, and prevent her being 
capsized by his headlong rush. 

For, contrary to the usual practice, he paused not an 
instant, but rather quickened his space, as if spurred. 
Heavens, how he went ! The mast and sail had to come 



PORT PEQASUS, 363 

down — and they did, but I hardly know how. The spray 
was blinding, coming in sheets over the bows, so that 1 
could hardly see how to steer in the monster's wake. He 
headed straight for the ship, which lay-to almost motion- 
less, filling me with apprehension lest he should in his 
blind flight dash that immense mass of solid matter 
into her broadside, and so put an inglorious end to all 
our hopes. What their feelings on board must have 
been, I can only imagine, when they saw the undeviating 
rush of the gigantic creature straight for them. On he 
went, until I held my breath for the crash, when at the 
last moment, and within a few feet of the ship's side, he 
dived, passing beneath the vessel. We let go line 
immediately, as may be supposed ; but although we had 
been towing with quite fifty fathoms drift, our speed had 
been so great that we came up against the old ship with 
a crash that very nearly finished us. He did not run 
any farther just then, but sounded for about two hundred 
and fifty fathoms, rising to the surface in quite another 
mood. No more running away from him. I cannot say 
I felt any of the fierce joy of battle at the prospect before 
me. I had a profound respect for the fighting quahties 
of the sperm whale, and, to tell the truth, would much 
rather have run twenty miles behind him than have him 
turn to bay in his present parlous humour. It was, 
perhaps, fortunate for me that there was a crowd of 
witnesses, the other ships being now quite near enough 
to see all that was going on, since the feeling that my 
doings were full in view of many experts and veterans 
gave me a determination that I would not disgrace 
either myself or my ship ; besides, I felt that this would 
probably be our last whale this voyage, if I did not fail, 
and that was no small thing to look forward to. 

All these things, ho tedious in the telling, flashed 



364 TEE CRUISE OF TEE " CACEALOT,"* 

through my mind, while, with my eyes glued to the huge 
bulk of my antagonist or the hissing vortices above him 
when he settled, I manoeuvred my pretty craft with all 
the skill I could summon. For what seemed a period of 
about twenty minutes we dodged him as he made the 
ugliest rushes at us. I had not yet changed ends with 
Samuela, as customary, for I felt it imperative to keep 
the helm while this game was being played. My trusty 
Kanaka, however, had a lance ready, and I knew, if he 
only got the ghost of a chance, no man living would or 
could make better use of it. 

The whole affair was growing monotonous as well as 
extremely wearying. Perhaps I was a little off my guard ; 
at any rate, my heart almost leaped into my mouth 
when just after an ugly rush past us, which I thought 
had carried him to a safe distance, he stopped dead, lifted 
his flukes, and brought them down edgeways with a 
vicious sweep that only just missed the boat's gunwale, 
and shore off the two oars on that side as if they had 
been carrots. This serious disablement would certainly 
have led to disaster but for Samuela. Prompt and 
vigorous, he seized the opportune moment when the 
whale's side was presented just after the blow, sending 
his lance quivering home all its length into the most 
vital part of the leviathan's anatomy. Turning his 
happy face to me, he shouted exultingly, *' How's dat 
fer high ? " — a bit of slang he had picked up, and his 
use of which never failed to make me smile. " High " 
it was indeed — a master-stroke. It must have pierced 
the creature's heart, for he immediately began to spout 
blcod in masses, and without another wound went into 
his flurry and died. 

Then came the reaction. I must have exerted myself 
beyond what I had any idea of, for to Samuela I was 



PORT PEGASUS. 365 

obliged to delegate the task of fluke-boring, while I rested 
a little. The ship was soon alongside, though, and the 
whale secured. There was more yet to be done before 
we could rest, in spite of our fatigue. The other boats 
had been so successful that they had got two big fish, 
and what we were to do with them was a problem not 
easily solvable. By dint of great exertion, wo managed 
to get another whale alongside, but were fain to come to 
some arrangement with the Eliza Adams, one of the 
ships that had been unsuccessful, to take over our other 
whale on an agreement to render us one-third of the 
product either in Port William or at home, if she should 
not find us in the former place. 

Behold us, then, in the gathering dusk with a whale 
on either side, every stitch of canvas we could show set 
and drawing, straining every nerve to get into the little 
pwrt again, with the pleasant thought that we were 
bringing with us all that was needed to complete our well- 
earned cargo. Nobody wanted to go below ; all hands 
felt that it was rest enough to hang over the rail on 
either side and watch the black masses as they surged 
through the gleaming sea. They represented so much 
to us. Very little was said, but all hearts were filled 
with a deep content, a sense of a long season of toil 
fitly crowned with complete success ; nor was any depres- 
sion felt at the long, long stretch of stormy ocean 
between us and our home port far away in the United 
States. That would doubtless come by-and-by, when 
within less than a thousand miles of New Bedford ; but 
at present all sense of distance from home was lost in 
the overmastering thought that soon it would be our 
only business to get there as quickly as possible, without 
any avoidable loitering on the road. 

We made an amazing disturbance in the darkness of 



^QQ TEE CRUISE OF TEE " CACEALOT" 

the sea with our double burthen, so much so that one of 
the coasting steamers changed her course a bit to range 
up by our side in curiosity. We were scarcely going 
two and a half knots, in spite of the row we made, and 
there was hardly room for wonder at the steamboat 
captain's hail, "Want any assistance?** "No, thank 
you," was promptly returned, although there was little 
doubt that all hands would have subscribed towards a 
tow into port, in case the treacherous weather should, 
after all, play us a dirty trick. But it looked as if our 
troubles were over. No hitch occurred in our steady 
progress, slow though it necessarily was, and as morning 
lifted the heavy veil from the face of the land, we 
arriVed at our pretty little haven, and quietly came to 
an anchor. The Chance was in port wind-bound, looking, 
like ourselves, pretty low in the water. No sooner did 
Paddy hear the news of our arrival in such fine trim 
than he lowered his boat and hurried on board of us, 
his face beaming with delight. Long and loud were his 
congratulations, especially when he heard that we should 
now be full. Moreover, he offered — nor would he take 
any denial — to come with the whole of his crew and help 
us finish. 

For the next four days and nights, during which the 
wind prevented the Chance from leaving us, our old ship 
was a scene of wild revelry, that ceased not through 
the twenty-four hours — revelry entirely unassisted by 
strong waters, too, the natural ebullient gaiety of men 
who were free from anxiety on any account whatever, 
rejoicing over the glad consummation of more than two 
years* toil, on the one hand ; on the other, a splendid 
sympathy in joy manifested by the satisfied crew under 
the genial command of Captain Gilroy. With their 
cheerful help we made wonderful progress ; and when at 



FORT PEGASUS, 367 

last the wind hauled into a favourable quarter, and they 
were compelled to leave us, the back of our work was 
broken, only the tedious task of boiling being left to 
finish. 

Never, I am sure, did two ships* companies part with 
more hearty good-will than ours. As the ungainly old 
tub surged slowly out of the little harbour, her worn-out 
and generally used-up appearance would have given a 
Board of Trade inspector the nightmare ; the piratical 
looks of her crowd were enough to frighten a shipload of 
passengers into fits ; but to us who had seen their per- 
formances in all weathers, and under all circumstances, 
accidental externals had no weight in biassing our high 
opinion of them all. Good-bye, old ship ; farewell, jolly 
captain and sturdy crew ; you will never be forgotten 
any more by us while life lasts, and in far other and 
more conventional scenes we shall regretfully remember 
the free-and-easy time we shared with you. So she 
slipped away round the point and out of our lives for 
ever. 

By dint of steady hard work we managed to get the 
last of our greasy work done in four days more, then 
faced with a will the job of stowing afresh the upper tiers 
of casks, in view of our long journey home. The oil 
bought by the skipper on private venture was left on 
deck, secured to the lash-rail, for discharging at the Blufl", 
while our stock of water casks were carefully overhauled 
and recoopered prior to being stowed in their places 
below. Of course, we had plenty of room in the hold, 
since no ship would carry herself full of casks of oil ; but 
I doubt whether, if we had borne a ''PlimsoU's mark,'* 
it would not have been totally submerged, so deep did 
we lie. Wooding and watering came next — a different 
affair to our casual exercises in those directions befora 



368 TEE CRUISE OF TEE " CACEALOTr 

Provision had to be made now for a possible four or five 
months' passage, during which we hoped to avoid any 
further calls, so that the accumulation of firewood alone 
was no small matter. We cleared the surrounding 
neighbourhood of potatoes at a good price, those useful 
tubers being all they could supply us with for sea-stock, 
much to their sorrow. 

Then came the most unpleasant part of the whole 
business — for me. It had been a part of the agreement 
made with the Kanakas that they were not to be taken 
home with us, but returned to their island upon the 
termination of the whaling. Now, the time had arrived 
when we were to part, and I must confess that I felt 
very sorry to leave them. They had proved docile, 
useful, and cheerful; while as for my harpooner and 
his mate Polly, no man could have wished for smarter, 
better, or more faithful helpers than they were. Strong 
as their desire was to return to their homes, they too 
felt keenly the parting with us ; for although they had 
unavoidably suffered much from the inclemency of the 
weather — so different from anything they had ever 
previously experienced — they had been kindly treated, 
and had moved on precisely the same footing as the rest 
of the crew. They wept like little children when the 
time arrived for them to leave us, declaring that if ever 
we came to their island again they would use all their 
endeavours to compel us to remain, assuring us that we 
should want for nothing during the rest of our lives, if 
we would but take up our abode with them. The one 
exception to all this cordiality was Sam. His ideas 
were running in quite other channels. To regain his 
lost status as ruler of the island, with all the oppor- 
tunities for indulging his animal propensities which 
such a position gave him, was the ;problem he had set 



FORT PE0ASU8. 3G9 

himself, and to the realization of these wishes he had 
determinedly bent all his efforts. 

Thus he firmly declined the offer of a passage back 
in the Eliza Adams^ which our captain secured for all 
the Kanakas ; preferring to be landed at the Bluff, with 
the goodly sum of money to which he was entitled, 
saying that he had important business to transact in 
Sydney before he returned. This business, he privately 
informed me, was the procuring of arms and ammunition 
wherewith to make war upon his rival. Of course we 
could not prevent him, although it did seem an abomi- 
nable thing to let loose the spirit of slaughter among 
those light-hearted natives just to satisfy the ambition 
of an unscrupulous negro. But, as I have before 
noticed, from information received many years after I 
learned that he had been successful in his efforts, though 
at what cost to life I do not know. 

So our dusky friends left us, with a good word from 
every one, and went on board the Eliza Adams , whose 
captain promised to land them at Futuna within six 
months. How he carried out his promise, I do not 
know; but, for the poor fellows' sakes, I trust he kept 
his word. 



370 TEE CliUISE OF TUE " CACUALOT: 



CHAPTER XXVIIL 

TO THE BLUFF, AND HOME. 

And now the cruise of the good old whaling barque 
Cachalot, as far as whaling is concerned, comes to an 
end. For all practical purposes she becomes a hum- 
drum merchantman in haste to reach her final port 
of discharge, and get rid of her cargo. No more will 
she loiter and pry around anything and everything, from 
an island to a balk of drift-wood, that comes in her way, 
knowing not the meaning of "waste of time.** The 
" crow's-nests *' are dismantled, taunt topgallant-masts 
sent up, and royal yards crossed. As soon as we get to 
sea we shall turn-to and heave that ancient fabric of 
bricks and mortar — always a queer-looking erection to 
be cumbering a ship's deck — piecemeal over the side. 
It has long been shaky and weather-beaten ; it will soon 
obstruct our movements no more. Our rigging has all 
been set up and tarred down ; we have painted hull and 
spars, and scraped wherever the wood-work is kept 
bright. All gear belonging to whaling has been taken 
out of the boats, carefully cleaned, oiled, and stowed 
away for a ** full due." Two of the boats have been 
taken inboard, and stowed bottom-up upon the gallows 
aft, as any other merchantman carries them. At last. 



ro THE BLUFF, AND HOME. 371 

our multifarious preparations completed, we ride ready 
for sea. 

It was quite in accordance with the fitness of things 
that, when all things were now ready for our departure, 
there should come a change of wind that threatened to 
hold us prisoners for some days longer. But our " old 
man " was hard to heat, and he reckoned that, if we 
could only get out of the "pond," he would work her 
across to the Blufif somehow or other. So we ran out a 
kedge with a couple of lines to it, and warped her out of 
the weather side of the harhour, finding, when at last 
we got her clear, that she would lay her course across 
the Straits to clear Ruapuk^ — nearly ; but the current 
had to be reckoned with. Before we reached that 
obstructing island we were down at the eastern end of 
it, and obliged to anchor promptly to save ourselves 
from being swept down the coast many miles to leeward 
of our port. 

But the skipper was quite equal to the occasion. 
Ordering his boat, he sped away into Bluff harbour, 
only a matter of six or seven miles, returning soon with 
a tug, who for a pound or two placed us, without 
further trouble, alongside the wharf, amongst some 
magnificent clipper ships of Messrs. Henderson's and 
the New Zealand Shipping Co.'s, who seemed to turn up 
their splendid noses at the squat, dumpy, antiquated 
old serving-mallet that dared to mingle with so august a 
crowd. There had been a time, not so very far back, 
when I should have shared their apparent contempt for 
our homely old tub ; but my voyage had taught me, 
among other things, that, as far as true comfort went at 
sea, not a " three- skysail-yarder *' among them could 
compare with the Cachalot, And I was extremely glad 
that my passage round the Horn was to be in my 



372 TEE CRUISE OF TEE '* CACEALOT."* 

own ship, and not in a long, snaky tank that, in the 
language of the sailor, takes a header when she gets 
outside the harbour, and only comes up two or three 
times to blow before she gets home. 

Our only reason for visiting this place being to dis- 
charge Captain Count's oil, and procure a sea-stock of 
salt provisions and hard bread, those duties were taken 
in hand at once. The skipper sold his venture of oil to 
good advantage, being so pleased with his success {hat 
he gave us all a good feed on the strength of it. 

As soon as the stores were embarked and everything 
ready for sea, leave was given to all hands for twenty- 
four hours, upon the distinct understanding that the 
privilege was not to be abused, to the detriment of 
everybody, who, as might be supposed, were anxious 
to start for home. In order that there might be less 
temptation to go on the spree generally, a grand picnic 
was organized to a beautiful valley some distance from 
the town. Carriages were chartered, an enormous 
quantity of eatables and drinkables provided, and away 
we went, a regular wayzgoose or bean-feast party. It 
was such a huge success, that I have ever since won- 
dered why such outings cannot become usual among 
sailors on liberty abroad, instead of the senseless, vicious 
waste of health, time, and hard-earned wages which is 
general. But I must not let myself loose upon this 
theme again, or we shall never get to sea. 

Liberty over without any trouble arising, and all 
hands comfortably on board again, the news ran round 
that we were to sail in the morning. So, after a good 
night's rest, we cast loose from the wharf, and, with a 
little assistance from the same useful tug that brought 
us in, got fairly out to sea. All sail was set to a strong, 
steady north-wester, and with yards canted the least 



TO THE BLUFF, AND JJOMB, 373 

bit in the world on the port tack, so that every stitch was 
drawing, we began our long easterly stretch to the Horn, 
homeward bound at last. 

Favoured by wind and weather, we made an average 
run of one hundred and eighty miles per day for many 
days, paying no attention to " great circle sailing," since 
in such a slow ship the net gain to be secured by going 
to a high latitude was very small, but dodging comfort- 
ably along on about the parallel of 48° S., until it became 
necessary to draw down towards " Cape Stiff," as that 
dreaded extremity of South America, Cape Horn, is 
familiarly called by seamen. As we did so, icebergs 
became numerous, at one time over seventy being in 
sight at once. Some of them were of immense size — one, 
indeed, that could hardly be fitly described as an iceberg, 
but more properly an ice-field, with many bergs rising 
out of it, being over sixty miles long, while some of its 
towering peaks were estimated at from five hundred to 
one thousand feet high. Happily, the weather kept 
clear; for icebergs and fog make a combination truly 
appalling to the sailor, especially if there be much 
wind blowing. 

Needless, perhaps, to say, our look-out was of the 
best, for all hands had a double interest in the safety of 
the ship. Perhaps it may be thought that any man 
would have so much regard for the safety of his life that 
he would not think of sleeping on his look-out ; but I can 
assure my readers that, strange as it may seem, such is 
not the case. I have known men who could never be 
trusted not to go to sleep, no matter how great the 
danger. This is so well recognized in merchant ships 
that nearly every officer acts as if there was no look-out 
at all forward, in case his supposed watchman should 
be having a surreptitious doze. 



374 THE CRUISE OF TEE " CACHALOT,'' 

Stronger and stronger blew the brave west wind ; 
dirtier, gloomier, and colder grew the weather, until, 
reduced to two topsails and a reefed foresail, we were 
scudding dead before the gale for all we were worth. 
This was a novel experience for us in the Cachalot^ and 
I was curious to see how she would behave. To my mind, 
the supreme test of a ship's sea-kindliness is the length 
of time she will scud before a gale without '* pooping " a 
sea or taking such heavy water on board over her sides 
as to do serious damage. Some ships are very dangerous 
to run at all. Endeavouring to make the best use of 
the gale which is blowing in the right direction, the 
captain " hangs on " to all the sail he can carry, until 
she ships a mighty mass of water over all, so that the 
decks are filled with wreckage, or, worse still, "poops " a 
sea. The latter experience is a terrible one, even to a 
trained seaman. You are running before the wind and 
waves, sometimes deep in the valley between two liquid 
mountains, sometimes high on the rolling ridge of one. 
You watch anxiously the speed of the sea, trying to 
decide whether it or you are going the faster, when 
suddenly there seems to be a hush, almost a lull, in 
the uproar. You look astern, and see a wall of water 
rising majestically higher and higher, at the same time 
drawing nearer and nearer. Instinctively you clutch 
at something firm, and hold your breath. Then that 
mighty green barrier leans forward, the ship's stern 
seems to settle at the same time, and, with a thundering 
noise as of an avalanche descending, it overwhelms you. 
Of course the ship's way is deadened ; she seems like a 
living thing overburdened, yet struggling to be free ; and 
well it is for all hands if the helmsman be able to keep 
his post and his wits about him. For if he be hurt, or 
have fled from the terrible wave, it is an even chance 



TO TEE BLUFF, AND HOME. 375 

that she " broaches to ; " that is to say, Bwiugs round 
broadside on to the next great wave that follows relent- 
lessly its predecessor. Then, helpless and vulnerable, 
she will most probably be smashed up and founder. 
Many a good ship has gone with all hands to the bottom 
just as simply as that. 

In order to avoid such a catastrophe, the proper 
procedure is to ** heave-to " before the sea has attained 
80 dangerous a height; but even a landsman can 
understand how reluctant a shipmaster may be to lie 
like a log just drifting, while a more seaworthy ship is 
flying along at the rate of, perhaps, three hundred miles 
a day in the desired direction. Ships of the Cachalot's 
bluff build are peculiarly liable to delays of this kind 
from their slowness, which, if allied to want of buoyancy, 
makes it necessary to heave-to in good time, if safety 
is at all cared for. 

To my great astonishment and delight, however, our 
grand old vessel nobly sustained her character, running 
on without shipping any heavy water, although some- 
times hedged in on either side by gigantic waves 
that seemed to tower as high as her lowermast-heads. 
Again and again we were caught up and passed by 
the splendid homeward-bound colonial packets, some 
of them carrying an appalling press of canvas, under 
which the long, snaky hulls, often overwhelmed by the 
foaming seas, were hardly visible, so insignificant did 
they appear by comparision with the snowy mountain of 
swelling sail above. 

So we fared eastward and ever southward, until in 
due time up rose the gloomy, storm-scarred crags of the 
Diego Ramirez rocks, grim outposts of the New World. 
To us, though, they bore no terrific aspect; for were 
they not the turning-point from which we could steer 



376 THE CRUISE OF THE *' CACHALOT:' 

north, our head pointed for home ? Immediately upon 
rounding them we hauled up four points, and, with 
daily improving weather, climbed the southern slopes 
towards the line. 

Very humdrum and quiet the life appeared to all of 
us, and had it not been for the saving routine of work 
by day, and watch by night, kept up with all our old 
discipline, the tedium would have been insupportable 
after the incessant excitement of expectation to which 
we had so long been accustomed. Still, our passage 
was by no means a bad one for a slow ship, being 
favoured by more than ordinarily steadfast winds until 
we reached the zone of the south-east trades again, 
where the usual mild, settled wind and lovely weather 
awaited us. On and on, unhasting but unresting, we 
stolidly jogged, by great good fortune slipping across 
the ** doldrums " — that hateful belt of calms about the 
line so much detested by all sailor-men — without losing 
the south-east wind. 

Not one day of calm delayed us, the north-east trades 
meeting us like a friend sent to extend a welcoming hand 
and lend us his assistance on our homeward way. They 
hung so far to the eastward, too — sometimes actually at 
east-by-north — that we were able to steer north on the 
starboard tack — a slice of luck not usually met with. 
This '* slant " put all hands in the best of humours, and 
already the date of our arrival was settled by the more 
sanguine ones, as well as excellent plans made for 
spending the long voyage's earnings. 

For my part, having been, in spite of my youth, 
accustomed to so many cruel disappointments and slips 
between the cup and lip, I was afraid to dwell too 
hopefully upon the pleasures (?) of getting ashore. And 
after the incident which I have now to record occurred, 



TO THE LLUFF, AND HOME, 377 

1 felt more nervous distrust than I had ever felt hefore 
at sea since first I began to experience the many 
vicissitudes of a sailor's life. 

We had reached the northern verge of the tropics in 
a very short time, owing to the favourable cant in the 
usual direction of the north-east trades before noted, 
and had been met with north-westerly winds and thick, 
dirty weather, which was somewhat unusual in so low a 
latitude. Our look-outs redoubled their vigilance, one 
being posted on each bow always at night, and relieved 
every hour, as we were so well manned. We were now 
on the port tack, of course, heading about north-east-by- 
north, and right in the track of outward-bound vessels 
from both the United Kingdom and the States. One 
morning, about three a.m. — that fateful time in the 
middle watch when more collisions occur than at any 
other — suddenly out of the darkness a huge ship seemed 
to leap right at us. She must have come up in a squall, 
of which there were many about, at the rate of some 
twelve knots an hour, having a fair wind, and every rag 
of sail set. Not a gleam of light was visible anywhere 
on board of her, and, to judge from all appearances, the 
only man awake on board was the helmsman. 

We, being ** on the wind, close-hauled," were bound 
by the "rule of the road at sea" to keep our course 
when meeting a ship running free. The penalty for 
doing anything under such circumstances is a severe 
one. First of all, you do not know that the other ship's 
crew are asleep or negligent, even though they carry no 
lights ; for, by a truly infernal parsimony, many vessels 
actually do not carry oil enough to keep their lamps 
burning all the voyage, and must therefore economize in 
this unspeakably dangerous fashion. And it may be 
that just as you alter your course, daring no longer to 



378 THE CRUISE OF TUE ''CACHALOT:* 

bold on, and, as you have every reason to believe, be 
run down, the other man alters his. Then a few breath- 
less moments ensue, an awful crash, and the two vessels 
tear each other to pieces, spilling the life that they 
contain over the hungry sea. Even if you escape, you 
are to blame for not keeping your course, unless it can be 
proved that you were not seen by the running ship. 

Well, we kept our course until, I verily believe, 
another plunge would have cut us sheer in two halves. 
At the last moment our helm was put hard down, 
bringing our vessel right up into the wind at the same 
moment as the helmsman on board the other vessel 
caught sight of us, and instinctively put his helm down 
too. The two vessels swung side by side amidst a 
thunderous roar of flapping canvas, crackling of fallen 
spars, and rending of wood as the shrouds tore away 
the bulwarks. All our davits were ripped from the 
starboard side, and most of our bulwarks too; but, 
strangely enough, we lost no spars nor any important 
gear. There seemed to be a good deal of damage done 
on board the stranger, where, in addition, all hands 
were at their wits' end. Well they might be, aroused 
from so criminal a sleep as theirs. Fortunately, the 
thu*d mate had a powerful bull's-eye lantern, which in 
his watch on deck he always kept lighted. Turning it 
on the stern of the delinquent vessel as she slowly 
forged clear of us, we easily read her name, which, for 
shame's sake as well as for prudential reasons, I 
withhold. She was a London ship, and a pretty fine 
time of it I had for the next day or two, listening to the 
jeers and sarcasms on the quality of British seamanship. 

Kepairing damages kept us busy for a few days ; but 
whatever of thankfulness we were capable of feeling was 
aroused by this hairbreadth escape from death through 



TO THE BLUFF, AND HOME. 379 

the wicked neglect of the most elementary duty of any 
man calling himself a seaman. 

Then a period of regular Western-ocean weather set 
in. It was early spring in the third year since our 
departure from this part of the world, and the north- 
easter blew with bitter severity, making even the 
seasoned old captain wince again ; but, as he jovially 
said, "it smelt homey, n* he warn't a-goin' ter growl at 
thet.'* Neither were any of us, although we could have 
done with less of a sharp edge to it all the same. 

Steadily we battled northward, until at last, with full 
hearts, we made Cape Navesink (** Ole Neversunk "), and 
on the next day took a tug and towed into New Bedford 
with every flag we could scare up flying, the centre of 
admiration — a full whale-ship safe back from her long, 
long fishing round the world. 

My pleasant talk is done. I wish from my heart it 
were better performed ; but, having done my best, I must 
perforce be content. If in some small measure I have 
been able to make you, my friendly reader, acquainted 
with a little-known or appreciated side of life, and in 
any wise made that life a real matter to you, giving you 
a fresh interest in the toilers of the sea, my work has 
not been wholly in vain. And with that fond hope I 
give you the sailor's valedictory — 



60 lonqI 



rmiKTED BY WILtlAU CL0WK5 AND BOHS, LIMITED, LONDON AND BBCCU*.